Dog Bites Alder; Will Alders Bite Back?

Markeshia Ricks PhotoNewhallville Alder Brenda Foskey Cyrus had surgery on a Thursday, returned home on a Friday and was bitten by a dog on Saturday.

She wasn’t bitten by a pit bull, which is the kind of dog that mauled and killed New Haven native Jocelyn Winfrey last year. She was attacked she said by a Shar Pei, known mostly for its distinctive wrinkly skin.

Foskey-Cyrus said last Saturday was not her first encounter with her neighbor’s dog. It was her third. On the last two occasions she was bitten. During this incident last week, she was simply standing outside when the dog bolted from her neighbor’s home. The dog’s owner told her to stand still.

Foskey-Cyrus recalled that story as she and her legislative colleagues met at City Hall Tuesday night a workshop held to drum up ideas and best practices to deal with the problem of dog bites, vicious dogs and the responsibility of owners and the city.

“I did stand still, but this dog was really biting me,” she recalled at the workshop, held by the Board of Alders Public Safety Committee.

Foskey-Cyrus said her first instinct wasn’t to call the police. It was to call for medical attention. But police did ultimately respond. The owner claimed that the dog had had its required shots. But police refused to take her word when she couldn’t produce paperwork that proved her claims, Foskey-Cyrus said.

The dog turned out to not have had its shots and was ultimately quarantined for the requisite 14 days to make sure there were no signs of rabies and then returned to its owner.

Foskey-Cyrus said that isn’t enough to make her feel safe that she won’t be bitten by her neighbor’s dog again.

Assistant Police Chief “Archie” Generoso told Foskey-Cyrus that criminal and civil penalties can be pursued against the owner. The state’s attorney would decide whether to pursue criminal penalties. Generoso said while the police officer has no discretion to decide anything about the dog beyond the quarantine, the courts can make a decision.

“You do have the right to take civil action against this person,” he said.

Foskey-Cyrus now has paperwork that requires the owner to keep the dog muzzled on walks. But given that she has been attacked when the dog bolts out of the house, it doesn’t make her feel confident that it won’t happen again.

The alder and other victims of dog bites and attacks could one day have a new ordinance that increases the responsibilities and maybe even the fines for owners. Already, a new protocol is being put into place to guide how the city responds to animal attacks and rescues.

The committee is sending the findings from its workshops to Board of Alders President Tyisha Walker with the recommendation that the Legislation Committee be tasked with making some changes to city’s animal ordinance. Possible changes include increased fines for owners whose animal attacks and mandatory training for animals involved in such incidents.

Fire Chief John Alston Jr., along with Public Service Answering Point (PSAP) Director Michael Briscoe, Deputy Director George Peet and Assistant Police Chief Generoso presented a draft standard operating procedure policy during the public safety meeting. The draft outlines what will happen in the city when there is a 911 call for an animal attack or animal rescue.

The main takeaways are that such calls will be treated as Priority 1 for response. Firefighters, police and emergency medical respond in tandem. Firefighters will wear their structural firefighting gear and once the scene is secure, they will approach. Police officers will be responsible for securing the scene and handle animal control. Prior to Winfrey’s death there was no established protocol on how to dispatch and categorize an animal attack call, or a procedure for response.

Beaver Hills Alder Brian Wingate, who serves as the Public Safety Committee vice chairman, is pushing for New Haven to adopt language in its animal ordinance that more closely mirrors one that exists in New Britain. It is supported by City Animal Control Officer Joseph Manganiello and Wingate, who witnessed the mauling of Winfrey, said that he believes with a new internal policy for how to respond to animal attacks and perhaps the adoption of a more up-to-date animal control ordinance it might be possible to prevent such tragedies from happening.

“Absolutely, there is no magic wand,” he said. “But it will be better than what we have, and I’m comfortable with that.”

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posted by: robn on April 19, 2017  3:45pm

The BOA shold keep in mind that there are many, many dog owners in New Haven and 99.9% of them are law abiding with good natured animals. Like laws we impose for humans, any dog related ordinances should be based upon preventing actual owner/dog behavior, not automatically penalizing a large group of owners for future crime.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on April 19, 2017  4:11pm

Absolutely, there is no magic wand,” he said. “But it will be better than what we have, and I’m comfortable with that.”

Snake-Oil and B.S. being sold.Do like they do in the UK..

Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (c. 65) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that was introduced in response to various incidents of serious injury or death resulting from attacks by aggressive and uncontrolled dogs, particularly on children.Under the 1991 Act (and as amended in 1997) it is illegal to own any Specially Controlled Dogs without specific exemption from a court. The dogs have to be muzzled and kept on a lead in public, they must be registered and insured, neutered, tattooed and receive microchip implants. The Act also bans the breeding, sale and exchange of these dogs, even if they are on the Index of Exempted Dogs.[1]

Four types in particular were identified by the Act:
Pit Bull Terrier
Japanese Tosa
Dogo Argentino
Fila Brasileiro

How is the Dangerous Dogs Act enforced?

If a person owns a banned dog the police or council are allowed to take it away and keep it regardless of whether or not it is acting dangerously or a complaint has been made.

If the animal is in a public place they can simply be confiscated there and then but in private police must have a warrant to take the dog.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on April 19, 2017  4:21pm

The owner is responsible for the pet. No excuses. Usually Homeowner’s Insurance covers the liability.
There is no “one bite” rule.

posted by: wendy1 on April 19, 2017  4:37pm

If my dog did that, bit a neighbor, it would be in doggie heaven and I would be begging her forgiveness.
I like pits but people come first. About 3 years ago, a pitbull in Martha’s Vineyard bit up 2 small horses and killed one of them.  It made front page news.  This is what lawyers are for if neighbors are incompetent, uncaring, or dangerous in some way.  It’s best to approach a “bad” neighbor in a friendly diplomatic way first to see if you can improve the situation.  I believe in checking out the neighbors before buying or renting period.

posted by: eastshore on April 19, 2017  6:47pm

Let’s not forget…  no pitbull has anything to do with this incident.  It seems to me every time a dog bites someone the word pitbull gets thrown in the mix… perpetuating the myth that it’s the dog and not the owner who is at fault.

posted by: westville man on April 19, 2017  8:01pm

Eastshore -  The myth is that its the owner, not the dog. Actually, in reality, it is both. Pit bulls are a menace in general. I don’t want them on my block.  Barking dogs are a real problem in Westville.  Thankfully, biting dogs aren’t.

posted by: Mark Oppenheimer on April 19, 2017  8:05pm

The English law is stupid, as there is no evidence those are particularly violent breeds. Nor is there any evidence that New Haven has a “problem.” Two high-profile attacks in two years—one of which is high-profile because it happened to a politician—do not equal a public-health crisis. I feel terrible for anyone who suffers dog violence, but the courts are already empowered to handle it. We don’t need a new law. And we don’t need another round of panic. (BTW, will the pit-bull haters tone down their rhetoric now that a bite has occurred from another breed? I doubt it. Too much emotion there.)

posted by: CTLifer on April 19, 2017  10:30pm

This is why most towns have and enforce leash laws.  This owner clearly has no control over her dog.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on April 19, 2017  10:49pm

posted by: Mark Oppenheimer on April 19, 2017 8:05pm

The English law is stupid, as there is no evidence those are particularly violent breeds.

It is not just English law.

Dangerous Dogs Act Ireland

Trinidad and Tobago: Dangerous Dogs Act

posted by: Anderson Scooper on April 19, 2017  11:37pm

Pit Bulls, Chows, Shar-Peis, Akitas—any of the fighting breeds are a menace to society and should be banned pure and simple.

When these dogs “go off” they do severe damage, because that is what they were bred to do!

posted by: brownetowne on April 20, 2017  12:04pm

Anderson is correct: this breed is also known as the Chinese Fighting Dog.  An irresponsible neighbor who owns a Shar-Pei would make me very very nervous.

I have been the victim of several dog attacks (Chows and Pit-Bulls) in New Haven and nothing ever happens to the dog owners to make them change their behavior.

posted by: westville man on April 20, 2017  12:29pm

Robn,  By my evidence, about 75% of dog owners here in Westville are law-abiding.  The rest have their dogs off leash,  on neighbors’ properties and dont “pick up” after them, especially if they think no one is watching.

posted by: BevHills730 on April 21, 2017  9:05pm

Westville Man,

You need to adopt a dog!

posted by: westville man on April 22, 2017  10:25am

BevHills.  We owned dogs for many years. I know what’s involved.  Maybe when I am older and grayer!