“Certain details will continue to be withheld”
STAMFORD, Connecticut––Stamford, Connecticut mayor David Martin on June 17, 2014 announced the firing of Stamford Animal Shelter manager Laurie Hollywood for repeatedly rehoming dogs with bite history, without disclosing that history to the adopters.
Investigation of the situation by the Stamford Police Department continues, Martin’s statement said, “thus certain details will continue to be withheld.”
Hollywood, hired in March 2005, was suspended on May 2, 2014 and volunteers were excluded from the premises. Along with the police, investigating agencies included the Stamford Office of Public Safety, Health & Welfare, and the City of Stamford Human Resources Division. The investigation had actually begun two weeks earlier, on April 18, after the city received details of three recent attacks by dogs who had been rehomed from the Stamford shelter.
The breeds of the dogs were not mentioned in the city statement, but advertisements for dogs at the Stamford shelter posted by the local volunteer group Outreach to Pets in Need have depicted mostly pit bulls––although often not identified by breed.
In one instance, the city statement said, an 84-pound dog identified as Alpha was surrendered to the Stamford Animal Shelter because of bite history, according to the surrender form. But the dog was advertised for adoption as “harmless in his play.” Added the promotional flyer, “The good news is we know Alpha did SO well in a home environment and should transition very easily back to a home life style.”
Alpha went on to bite several people, one of whom required hospital treatment.
In a second case, a dog identified as Beta was surrendered after having bitten a child. The adopter was not advised of the bite history. Beta bit the adopter’s child. Instead of taking a bite report, Hollywood allegedly gave the adopter contact information for a volunteer trainer. Before a training session could be arranged, Beta bit the child a second time.
“In violation of state requirements and city policy, a bite report was not made,” the Stamford city investigators found. “Instead of sending an animal control officer, the animal control manager sent a volunteer to visit the home.”
Beta tried to bite the child yet again. Returned to the shelter, Beta was rehomed to another adopter who likewise was not informed of Beta’s bite history. That adopter and several other people were also bitten.
In a third case, Hollywood allegedly rehomed a dog who was impounded after biting three police officers. The dog went on to bite the adopter’s wife.
In yet another instance, Hollywood did not impound a dog who allegedly attacked humans and other animals on multiple occasions over several months, and eventually became subject of a restraining order.
Key findings of the city investigation, the city statement summarized, were that “ Several people were bitten and injured, including one who was seriously injured and treated at the hospital, from dogs adopted out from the Animal Control Center. In violation of city policy, dog owners were not given information about the dogs’ prior history of biting and aggressive behavior. Despite two prior written warnings from the state, the animal control manager [Hollywood] adopted out dogs with a history of biting. The animal control manager on multiple occasions failed to report dog bites and injuries, and take action. The animal control manager caused a false official city record to be created to cover up the adopting out of a dog that had a documented history of biting.”
In addition, the Stamford city statement continued, “In violation of city policy, the animal control manager sent volunteers to residents’ homes, without informing residents of their volunteer status or seeking permission from her supervisor. The animal control manager practiced veterinary medicine without having a valid license, was investigated by the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health, and as a result entered into a cease and desist order with the state. The history of dogs at the center was misrepresented to the public, including in published communications. In violation of city policy, the animal control manager did not appropriately manage volunteers at the animal control center, allowing them to assume responsibilities that should only be discharged by an animal control officer.”
The Stamford Animal Shelter rehomed 12 dogs, 14 cats, two rabbits, and a bird during the investigation, without the help of volunteers, a city spokesperson told media. Volunteers continue to be excluded from the shelter “until new policies and procedures are reviewed and put into place,” the city statement said.
The Connecticut State Bureau of Regulation & Inspection warned Hollywood against rehoming dangerous dogs as far back as February 2008. Hollywood had appealed against a restraining order that prevented her from adopting out a dog with bite history.
Responded the assistant bureau director, “The Department of Agriculture does not support animal control officers knowingly placing dogs with a documented history of aggression back into contact with the public. This action could result in the municipality assuming liability should the dog become aggressive and bite again. While everyone in the field of animal control should do what can be done to better the lives of animals, the first responsibility of all animal control officers is to the safety of the public.”
Hollywood received a second warning letter from the Connecticut State Bureau of Regulation & Inspection in June 2011, after she adopted out a dog with a documented history of biting and then retrieved the dog from the Naugatuck animal control shelter when the dog was impounded following further incidents.
“As you are aware,” the second warning letter said, “we have discussed the placement of biting dogs in the past. It is the responsibility of State Animal Control to bring attention to the municipality where public safety and liability may be of concern.”
Again Hollywood was reminded that “The Department of Agriculture does not support animal control officers knowingly placing dogs with a documented history of aggression background into contact with the public.”
Hollywood was defended in a statement posted to Facebook by Outreach to Pets in Need founder Ali Girardi. “We will do our best to work with the city and get the group of beloved dogs released, the group that has been undergoing two months of evaluations, the group known as Tigger and Friends,” Girardi said. Tigger is a pit bull whom the Stamford Animal Shelter has held since April. He was slated for adoption when Hollywood was suspended. City officials subsequently deemed him too aggressive to be adopted safely.
(See also Connecticut shelter investigated for allegedly adopting out dangerous dogs; Fitchburg becomes third public shelter to suspend operations due to liability concerns about pit bulls; and Roswell resumes releases of dogs to rescue groups following 3-day suspension after pit bull attack.)
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Branwyn Finch says
I am speechless….why didn’t the town of Stamford fire this woman years ago?
It has become sadly obvious that a frightening number of dog rescues are run by individuals who are suffering from a form of mental illness. These seem to be predominantly women, who are attracted to and obsessed with “saving” dangerous dogs and “hopeless cases”.. I would say Ms. Hollywood should be charged with child abuse, after repeatedly putting children in mortal danger by placing dogs with bite histories in homes with children.. If a school, daycare, or other business or state agency placed a known child abuser in a job or environment where they would have contact with children, there would be serious legal repercussions. Yet dog rescues seem to get away with this every day.
It should never have taken this many incidents for the city of Stamford to take action….shame on city officials for letting this go on as long as it did.
Mary Ann Redfern says
You are so right.
Annie B says
She needs to be charged in a court of law for EVERY ONE of those bites. She should spend time incarcerated and then have to tell what she did, and the consequences to innocent people of what she did, to the public in interviews around the country. These is knowing and willful actions . They could have and still may end up tragically.
Jamaka Petzak says
Stamford Animal Shelter absolutely made the right decision.
Mary Ann Redfern says
Multiply this times 100’s. This is, unfortunately, happening country wide. Wake up, America. Our safety is going to the dogs, literally. BSL for pit bulls and other aggressive breeds should end this hateful practice and save countless injuries and lives.
Diane Peter says
BSL is NOT the answer. Maybe stricter laws or screening on who can own them, Pit Bulls are perfectly fine with people who train & socialize them properly, unfortunately lots of people get them as penis replacement objects & do not properly train or care for the dogs. Any dog that is kept on a chain would be a possible attack risk for instance because they were not meant to live alone & confined in a tiny area, they get frustrated & turn that into aggression. Also in dog attack articles if it’s not a pit bull they usually don’t name the breed, Yorkie attacks just doesn’t have the same impact as pit bull attacks in the news.
On the actual article the woman should have been fired ages ago for not disclosing the dog’s bite histories, some people might have taken them & worked on the dogs issues, but if the people didn’t know there was an issue then they were put in danger. So she should at the very least be charged with reckless endangerment, especially with children in the house.
Merritt Clifton says
“Stricter laws or screening on who can own” a pit bull IS breed-specific legislation, and is exactly what pit bull advocates have worked to repeal or preclude from being enacted in more than a dozen states and several hundred local jurisdictions.
The allegation that “in dog attack articles if it’s not a pit bull they usually don’t name the breed” is just plain flat false. As of tonight, I have logged 4,837 fatal or disfiguring dog attacks in the U.S. and Canada since September 1982. The breed of dog was not identified in only 62 cases: 1.3%. Another way to put that is that the breed of dog was identified 98.7% of the time. 68% of the time, the dog was a pit bull. 13% of the time the dog was of another closely related molosser breed, including bull mastiff, Rottweiler, Presa Canario, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasiero, Cane Corso, and boxer. 9% of the time the dog was in the “wolf-like” category, meaning wolf hybrids and dog breeds that have been passed off as wolf hybrids, including huskies, Samoyeds, Akitas, Malamutes, German shepherds, and various lesser-known breeds of similar appearance. All of these categories of dog combined come to just under 20% of the dog population, but account for 90% of the fatal and disfiguring attacks, while the other 80% of the dog population, many of them also large breeds, account for just 10%.
This problem of adopting out vicious dogs is not unique to the town or facility, I am a dog breeder I get calls almost daily from people who are heart broken because they adopted a dog and it either attack them their children or a neighbor often causing tremendous injuries and trauma. We need to require each facility to be licensed and operated by a trained and licensed dog handler. The rescues and shelter must be required to carry liability insurance and stand accountable for the animals they place.
Rescues and shelters have turned into a big money game and the public is being mislead, there is not a dog shortage actually there is a dog shortage nationwide, these dogs that are found in shelters are problem animals. Generally having been abused by the people that surrender them in one form or another. The dog industry has been blamed for these animals, once the truth is know you will see these so called shelters adopt out vicious animals, and when they are returned either move them down stream to a rescue or another shelter, they never refund the money and in this example they list this the dog not as a return but a surrender, This happens numerous times, so the numbers reports are often highly over stated. Recently it was reported the average time a shelter dog last in a new home is somewhere around 35 days before it is either put down, abandoned, or surrendered again… We need mandatory micro chips in all domestic animals and individual accountability laws to hold people accountable for the expense and care of animals these people fail to care for as promised.
If an individual person had done this, they would be subject to civil and probably criminal prosecution (willfully failing to divulge what amounts to a dangerous latent defect in specific dogs). It isn’t necessary to target a particular breed or landrace of dogs. ANY breed can have an individual dog that is dangerous. But if one sold a Ford that one KNEW had defective brakes, and the buyer thereafter had an accident involving brake failure, that amounts to criminal negligence. IF a dog is KNOWN to have a medical problem or a temperament problem, it needs to be divulged to the potential purchaser. That’s the requirement breeders and non government dog providers are held to. It’s the requirement one has in selling a house. Not only should this individual have been fired on the first instance of willful failure to be open about the dogs they provided, there should have been a clear signal sent that further such failures by anyone else would result in the withdrawal of protection from criminal and civil prosecution as a “government” employee.