Ex-Bully Breed Rescue president sentenced; cop charged who ran police & military dog training center
BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut––One high-profile Connecticut mass cruelty case involving high-risk “status dogs” ended on May 4, 2022––pending appeals––just as another began, 20 miles north.
The permanent status of five former Bully Breed Rescue pit bulls is dead.
Likewise for at least four dogs, believed to have been Malinois, a German shepherd, and a Labrador retriever, whose remains were found at the Black Rock Canines training center in Naugatuck.
Lueders got off easy––especially compared to her pit bulls
Yet to be seen is whether Black Rock Canines owner and New Canaan police officer David Rivera Jr., 34, his father David Rivera Sr., 57, both of Stratford, and employee Daniel Luna, 28, of Waterbury, will get off as lightly for the deaths of the dogs in their care as did Bully Breed Rescue president Heidi Lueders, whose organization has been defunct––along with the “Fairfield Five” pit bulls––since 2018.
Connecticut Superior Court Judge Peter McShane on February 9, 2022 acquitted Lueders of all five felony cruelty counts brought against her after the skeletal remains of the “Fairfield Five” were on November 11, 2018 found dead in their cages in her rented home.
McShane, however, convicted Lueders of criminal damage to property for leaving the Fairfield home filled with refuse, feces, needles, and other drug paraphernalia, along with the dead pit bulls.
Landlord lost house to foreclosure
For that offense Lueders could have been sentenced to serve five years in prison, after spending just one hour in jail following her arrest before being bailed out by her affluent parents.
Assistant State’s Attorney Felicia Valentino “didn’t seek the maximum sentence of five years,” reported Marissa Alter of Connecticut News 12 television, “but pushed for a period of jail time followed by probation so Lueders could begin to pay restitution to [former landlord] Celly Roberts.
“Valentino said Roberts is owed $190,141,” Alter continued.
Testimony during Lueders’ trial established that Roberts lost the house to foreclosure after she was unable to pay the cost of clean-up and repairs. The loss effectively erased Roberts’ retirement savings.
“Bragged about how she was found innocent”
Defense attorney Rob Serafinowicz argued that Lueders should get only probation and an order to obtain treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.
Tearfully testified Lueders herself at the sentencing hearing, “People privately ask me what happened. I tell them I cannot remember because I was using that large a quantity of drugs on a daily basis. I am sorry for everything that happened, and I fully accept responsibility.”
Judge McShane then told the court that in weighing Lueders’ sentence, he took into consideration not just the crime of destruction of property that he had convicted Lueders of, but also her subsequent behavior.
“I saw her bragging [on social media] about how she was found innocent. I thought I was pretty clear that she was not found innocent,” McShane said. “She was found not guilty. There was no accepting of responsibility at that time. Not once did she offer any apologies or sympathies towards Ms. Roberts.”
“Those dogs were left to rot”
McShane went on to mention that regardless of why the “Fairfield Five” died, “Those dogs who died were left to rot, were left to decay, were left to diminish in their cages in which an animal should be able to find some comfort.”
McShane finally sentenced Lueders to serve fifteen months in prison, followed by five years on probation, during which time she may not “work with or have any further involvement with any organization that rescues animals,” must complete an online ‘animal cruelty program,’ may not possess firearms, must work full time, and must pay restitution to Roberts in an amount to be determined by the Department of Probation.
Calling the sentence “absolutely ridiculous,” Lueders’ defense lawyer Serafinowicz said he would appeal her conviction. McShane set Lueders’ appeal bond at $350,000.
Illegal explosives & firearms
Meanwhile in Naugatuck, half an hour from the Lueders sentencing hearing, authorities disclosed that a late April 2022 joint investigation by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture animal control unit, the Connecticut State Police, the Stratford police department and the Naugatuck Police Department had produced charges pertaining to alleged cruelty to animals and storage of illegal explosives and firearms at Black Rock Canines.
The Black Rock Canine dog training facility advertises that, “Our dogs are farm-raised in the U.S.A. and treated humanely, with full accountability and transparency from birth.”
But, summarized NBC Connecticut, “Investigators said they believe at least 10 canines were killed by employees of the business. The dogs are believed to have been shot and killed and then buried on the property by the owner or operators of the business. State police said they have found the remains of four dogs there.”
Thirty-one live dogs were impounded at the scene.
“Potential military & police canines”
“The business is a training facility for potential military and police canines,” NBC Connecticut elaborated, “as well as for canines privately owned by people seeking such training.”
New Canaan police officer David Rivera Jr. was “placed on leave and prohibited from serving as an active duty officer, pending the results of the criminal case and the internal investigation,” NBC Connecticut said.
Rivera Jr. was charged with reckless endangerment, conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals, and conspiracy to euthanize a dog.
“He was released after posting a $150,000 bond and is due in court on May 18, 2022,” NBC Connecticut added.
Two others charged
In addition, “David Rivera Sr., 57, of Stratford, was charged with threatening in the second degree,” FOX 61 News anchor Carmen Chau reported.
Black Rock Canines general manager Daniel Luna, 38, of Waterbury, was charged with four counts of animal cruelty and four counts of unlawfully euthanizing a dog.
“Search warrants were also executed at Rivera Jr.’s home, where police found illegal explosives and firearms, including an assault rifle,” Chau said.
“The warrants stated Luna and Rivera Jr. would have a female employee transport the illegal explosives to the Naugatuck Event Center” for training exercises, Chau finished.
This was apparently without the knowledge of either the event center management or any of the owners and managers of the multiple businesses that rent space at the Naugatuck Event Center.
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