Westport, CT Couple to Contest Dangerous Dog Finding

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Postby cheekymunkee » August 10th, 2008, 1:38 am

Couple to Contest Dangerous Dog Finding
By Ashley Varese
Article Launched: 08/06/2008 10:00:18 AM EDT

After originally determining a local dog not dangerous pending a home visit, Westport's Dangerous Dog Hearing Board Thursday night decided that Adelaide, the Labrador mix living in the Cove Mill neighborhood, was a danger to the community.

Three of the five board members attended the meeting, rendering a 2-1 vote.

Delmar and Maureen Bogner, the couple who own the dog, will file for injunctive relief this week, said their attorney Erich Gaston.

Gaston said the couple received orders Monday requiring them to muzzle Adelaide when she's leashed, to erect an 8-foot fence around their property and to post a "dangerous dog" sign in their yard.

Nearly 30 people attended a July 24 hearing to determine whether or not Adelaide should be considered dangerous. The hearing stemmed from a July 2007 incident where the Bogners' dogs and another neighborhood dog belonging to Peter Wormser, got into a fight in the cove parking lot.

Police and animal control investigated the incident and determined that the dog was not dangerous.

According to First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, Police Chief Al Fiore never formalized his findings, which Joseloff said was a lapse on the town's part. In the meantime, he said, cove residents contacted him calling for a public hearing.

Joseloff said Fiore formalized his decision on July 3, and letters went out to the complainants informing them of the finding and stating that they had five business days to contest the decision. He said the town received a letter from the neighbors July 9 requesting a formal meeting.

Gaston refutes Joseloff's timeline, and said when the incident first occurred, Fiore and the animal control officers investigated the incident and required that the couple erect a fence and use a gate at the front door.

Since the couple complied, Gaston said the problem was "resolved by agreement."

"The finding was resolved in March," he said, "and there was no request for a hearing back then. The complaints are untimely."

During the July 24 hearing, neighbors discussed a second alleged incident, which is currently under investigation, in which Adelaide, who was being walked on her leash, was approached by an unleashed neighbor's dog.

Gaston said because the complaint is still under investigation, it should not have been considered at the hearing.

"They haven't made a finding yet," he said. "They have no authority to act on it."

Gaston also takes issue with the town's ordinance, which he said is very vague.

"It says any person can complain they don't have to be injured," he said. "It seems that if 50 people say something, they can't be wrong."

Delmar Bogner agreed, saying early last week that a number of neighbors are "propagating fear" throughout the community. He said there were no other complaints since the 2007 incident and that he remedied the situation to the fullest extent. He claims four of his neighbors are behind the push against Adelaide, stating they want revenge for an unrelated incident that occurred a few years back.

Gaston said according to the findings in the first incident, he was supposed to be notified by the town of any additional hearings. He did not receive notice for the July 24 hearing, but did attend the July 31 meeting during which the decision was rendered.

"The problem with the board is that it's not doing its job," Gaston said. "It sees itself as a generalized policing function."

He said after filing the injunction, the court may hold a hearing, but isn't required to. It could set the hearing board's decision aside, or remand the case for further findings of fact.

Gaston also called the hearing "very Salem Witch Trial-esque."

"Plain and simple, this is a railroad job," he said.


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Postby cheekymunkee » August 10th, 2008, 1:46 am

Adelaide declared dangerous
By:Meg Learson Grosso, Staff Writer

Adelaide, a dog owned by Dale and Arlene Bogner, who summer in their cottage at Old Mill Beach, was declared dangerous in a 2 to 1 decision, when the Dangerous Dog Hearing Board met to to have its second hearing on the matter last Thursday evening at Town Hall.

On Tuesday of this week, Erich Gaston, attorney for the Bogners, told the Minuteman that he will file an appeal in Superior Court. In the meantime, he may file an injunction to prevent the town from taking any enforcement action.
The meeting last Thursday began outside the Bogner's home at Old Mill Beach, after which the board returned to Town Hall. After about half-an-hour's discussion there, Dr. Joan Poster, the board's chair, called for a vote and Ann Marie Flynn was the lone dissenter.
"The issue has to be handled so there is peace of mind at Old Mill," said Flynn, who then said she wanted to wait two weeks until the Bogners had made some corrections, maybe a fence and a muzzle, before the board made a final vote.
Flynn was interrupted by owner Dale Bogner who objected to a muzzle, saying his dog had been walked all over town and in Winslow Park and that there had not been been incidents in those places.
However, Dr. Poster said that someone had written a letter that said other dogs see Adelaide coming and they are afraid, adding, "At least 50 people have personally complained that they're afraid of this dog and that it's a menace to them."
Dr. Poster said she did not want to wait two weeks "for something else to happen. I think it's unfair to all. I would hate to be in that position where I think the dog is always going to come out and jump me ... Especially children, I think children are always going to be fearful of dogs because of this dog."
Poster added that the Bogners had an unrealistic idea that their dog was only "holding" other dogs in its mouth, not biting them.
Board member Susan Smith said, "Because the Bogners don't agree with a muzzle, the only way we can enforce it is to declare the dog dangerous."
The vote was preceded by a short hearing in which Wally Meyer, a resident of Old Mill, and former RTM member, first asked if Peter Wormser could speak, saying he had not been able to the previous week because of the short notice of the meeting.
At first Poster protested, saying that a letter from Wormser had already been read the previous week, but Wormser said he wanted to correct "misinformation" provided by the dog's owner at that time.
Wormser said there were many incidents prior to the one on June 24 of last year, where the Bogners' dogs had gotten out of the house without their collars and had attacked Wormser's small dog on a leash, then bitten Wormser on the thigh after he had pried his own dog out of Adelaide's mouth.
Wormser said prior to that, he and Dale Bogner "had tried to work out something fair and equitable," in a neighborly fashion. Wormser agreed to keep his dog on a leash and Bogner agreed to fix his fence.
"When I was bitten, it was unprovoked. Dale was standing as close to me as he is now (a few feet away) and he was unable to control his dog," said Wormser, adding that the dog "came right at us."
Wormser said that after that, "We recommended that he enclose his property entirely," but Bogner said it would be an inconvenience for his car, which he parks on his property in front of his house.
Wormser also said he found it very upsetting that some people would say he shouldn't have intervened in the "dog fight" to save his dog, as both the animal control officer and Bogner had done.
At this point, Clark Hanford, a resident of the beach area, said he had witnessed three of the five dog attacks and "none of them were dog fights. They were dog attacks."
The attorney for the Bogners then asked if he could cross-examine the Wormsers, but residents said they did not have an attorney, so it wouldn't be fair.
Wally Meyer said to the attorney, "If you can cross-examine the neighbors, then the neighbors can cross- examine him (Dale Bogner), and that man is living in a dream world."
Mayer said he took exception to the fact that the police had always interviewed the Bogners, but "No one has ever interviewed us."
Animal Control officer Joseph Saponaire said he had interviewed Ellen Sonsino, whose small dog, Freddie, had been attacked by Adelaide on July 4 of this year.
Freddie was not on a leash at the time and that he also interviewed the Bogners.
Meyer asked if the officer had ever talked to unbiased witnesses like Clark Hanford or Joan Beauvais.
Hanford pointed out that last year there had been a petition signed by over 20 people (which asked that Adelaide be removed from the neighborhood). "Is it not possible to find a witness out of all those people?" Hanford asked.
At this point, board member Smith said that it was clear that according to the ordinance, Adelaide was already a dangerous dog, since she had, unprovoked, chased a person on public or private property other than the owners's, while "snarling, growling or snapping."
"Everyone agrees the dog is territorial and its territory seems to include the whole parking lot area, and, sadly accidents do happen, and I think what we have to think about is the potential for a severe attack on a dog or human ... If it takes declaring the dog dangerous to insure the safety of others, then that is what we have to do. I don't see what choice we have," said Smith.
"On what complaint are you acting?" questioned attorney Gaston.
"All of them," said Dr. Joan Poster and the other board members.
Gaston then said that the case should not even be heard because there was no timely challenge of the police chief's decision, which said that Adelaide was not dangerous. The attorney said the decision had been made on March 24 of this year, when the chief of police sent a memo to the First Selectman and the Bogners.
"There should be no hearing," said the attorney.
"Well, we're here," said Dr. Poster, "we're just going to go ahead. I am not an attorney and I can't argue with you about the procedures ... If you have a problem with it, you're going to have to take it someplace other than here."
Bogner then interrupted again, saying the details of the Sansino incident "have been badly understood ..."
Dr. Poster replied, "The dog has a dog in his mouth and you're saying that it's 'holding' the other dog ... (It's) unrealistic ... To me it's an aggressive act."
She and Smith then voted to declare Adelaide a dangerous dog.
Not present for the vote were board members Dr. Rocco Frank, a veterinarian, and Heather Witt, a dog trainer. Frank came to the early part of the meeting at Old Mill Beach to say that he was recusing himself because he had treated the Bogners' two dogs in the past, and in fact, the dogs had spent that very day at his kennel. He said Witt recused herself because she had been hired by the Bogner's to train their dogs on a "barking issue" about a year before.
While board members were at the beach, they could observe that people who wanted to cross the Mill Pond Bridge first had to walk a path that borders on the Bogner's side yard and that is, at one point, is only six feet or so from their main door, at a place where there is no fence.
The property is also not fenced in on the front where it borders the parking lot of Old Mill Beach. The rear of the Bogner's property is only foot or two from the bridge over the Mill Pond and the Bogner back yard does have a wire fence a few feet high.
The dogs arrived in a station wagon while everyone was there and were taken by a dog sitter into the house. They were later let into the fenced-in back yard without incident and did not appear to have the ferocity for which they are well-known.
http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?news ... 2915&rfi=6

Jodi Preis
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Posts: 28540
Location: Dallas

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