Second payout for mauling at Meriden Animal Shelter in 18 months
MERIDEN, Connecticut––Meriden Humane Society board member Marlene Wall, 65, seems to be in good hands with the Allstate Insurance Corporation, which on April 4, 2018 agreed to pay her $362,599 for injuries inflicted on her in June 2014 by former Meriden Humane Society director Marlena DiBianco’s 10-year-old Doberman.
The Doberman, named Einstein, was later euthanized.
“DiBianco also faces criminal charges for allegedly forging a rabies certificate in 2014. She has pleaded not guilty and the matter is expected to go to trial later this month,” reported Meriden Record-Journal staff writer Leigh Tauss.
Seeking better hands
Meriden mayor Kevin Scarpati and the city council decided in 2016 that the community-owned animal shelter would be in better hands without the Meriden Humane Society in it, even though the humane society had provided sheltering services since 1893.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati “said there were disagreements over issues including allowing animals to wander freely in the building and cleanliness,” reported Matt Austin of NBC—Connecticut.
But those issues were resolved, Tauss wrote, after the Meriden Humane Society board decided it would be in better hands without DiBianco, 53, who has also been known as Marlena Morris.
“The city was eventually able to reconcile its relationship with the Meriden Humane Society and a new lease agreement for the shelter was signed last year,” recalled Tauss. “The Meriden Humane Society was initially listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, but was later removed. The matter was set to go to trial with jury selection slated for next week.”
The Wall case was the second six-figure settlement involving the Meriden Animal Shelter in 18 months.
In October 2016, Tauss reported, “The city reached a settlement agreement with Massachusetts resident Michael Evans, who alleged negligence by the animal control division after a dog attack in April 2012. City officials were unable to provide the full amount of the settlement, but in July 2016 the plaintiff had offered to settle the claim for $175,000. The city has been billed for a $50,000 deductible from its insurance company for the case.
ACO removed collar & leash
“According to the lawsuit,” Tauss continued, “Evans was attacked and bitten by an un-neutered male pit bull/mastiff mix. Evans was interested in adopting the dog after seeing a listing for it online. Animal control officer James Barnes, who has since retired, brought the dog on a leash and collar into a fenced in area so Evans could inspect it, according to the lawsuit. While in the fenced area, Barnes ‘removed the collar and leash from the dog,’ and ‘began to fiddle with the collar to adjust its size,’ according to the lawsuit. Evans was standing nearby.
“When Barnes then attempted to reapply the collar, ‘the dog attacked and bit Evans in the genitals, legs, buttocks, left hand and left arm, causing puncture wounds and serious and permanent injuries, harms and losses,’ the lawsuit states.”
Meriden is only one of several Connecticut communities where public safety has been expensively compromised in recent years by lax animal care-and-control practices.
In Stamford, an hour away
In Stamford, Connecticut, 62 miles southwest of Meriden, district Superior Court judge Gary White on January 31, 2018 admitted former Stamford Animal Shelter manager Laurie Hollywood, 46, to an accelerated rehabilitation program and allowed her to serve only one day in the program before walking free with no criminal record.
Summarized John Nickerson of the Stamford Advocate, “Hollywood was charged in 2014 with three reckless endangerment charges after police found she downplayed or failed to disclose the biting history of three dogs adopted from the city’s shelter who went on to bite again.”
The charges were reduced, however, when one alleged victim refused to testify and evidentiary problems developed pertaining to another alleged victim.
Meanwhile, the city of Stamford in March 2016 paid $290,000 to Matthew Lazarus, 31, who was mauled by a Rottweiler at the Stamford shelter in 2012, during Hollywood’s nine-year tenure, which ended when she was fired in June 2014.
The Connecticut safety issues involving negligence on the parts of animal control agencies, humane societies, and their personnel are echoed in neighboring Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
All three states have legislation precluding breed-specific ordinances which could reduce the risk by mandating that pit bulls, Rottweilers, bull mastiffs, Dobermans, and other dogs of demonstrably dangerous breed history must be sterilized, adequately insured, and securely confined, and that dogs of any sort may not be sold or rehomed in any manner without written disclosure of any bite history involving them.
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