The three members of Newtown’s Board of Selectmen Monday night voted unanimously to adopt policies and procedures for impounded animals held at the town’s Animal Control Facility.
The board agreed upon two last changes to the document before final public comment and a vote. They changed any mention of a “trainer” to a “behaviorist” to work with dogs that have behavior issues, and agreed to appoint an advisory board of residents “to work with the municipal animal control officer and the assistant control officer to supplement the animal control facility policies and procedures, and to assist in program development,” said First Selectman Pat Llodra.
“I was not at all in favor of creating a policy, but I can now see that there was a need to put something in writing,” said Canine Advocates of Newtown President Virginia Jess. “What you’ve come up with is something we can all work with.”
The newly constructed Animal Control Facility on Old Farm Road Extension, behind the Governor’s Horse Guard at Fairfield Hills, is nearly finished. It will have a “soft” opening in April and full opening in June, Llodra said. It is planned to be named for the late veterinaian Dr. Brian J. Silverlieb.
“I hope we’ve covered all the bases, dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s, and come up with a plan that is best for the community and best for the animals,” said Selectman James Gaston Sr.
Llodra noted that “quite a few of” the meeting’s audience of about 20 was in attendance out of concern for this plan. She explained that the change to the term “behaviorist” was to specify “a person who has a broader range of experience and abilities than just the training of an animal to behave in a certain fashion.”
A behaviorist would not be a full-time town employee but an independent contractor called in as needed. The Municipal Animal Control Officer (MACO), currently Carolee Mason, would have discretion to bring in “a person who has that elevated level of understanding about how to work with animals that have been impounded.”
This person has to hold adequate insurance, said Llodra, noting, “The vulnerability to the town is too significant.”
Newtown has a “no kill” policy for animals in the facility, and this was discussed extensively during the process of creating this document, but procedures are in place in the event that an animal has no other options.
Several residents, however, still challenged the notion that any animal would need to be euthanized.
“In the past six or seven years that I’ve been involved with the pound, we’ve never had a dog that didn’t eventually have a successful placement,” said one resident who identified herself as “the crazy dog lady,” adding, “I hope the town is willing to hire the right person who would be able to help in a difficult situation.”
Mrs. Llodra explained that the chain of approval for a dog to be euthanized is extensive: it involves the animal control officer, the advisory board, a veterinarian, a behaviorist, the first selectman and the chief of police or his designee.
The policies and procedures focus primarily on the issue of “kill, no kill,” said Selectman Bill Rodgers, because “that was an issue of concern, but not so much with everyday operations,” which are the discretion of the animal control officer.
The new advisory board of Newtown residents would be appointed by the Board of Selectmen. This is not a decision-making board, said Llodra, but will provide “support and guidance” to the animal control officer. How the members will be chosen has not yet been determined, she said.