|Animal expert Milan with a pit bull|
Photo by Lynn Fredricksen
Hamden Animal Control Officer Chris Smith visits with Homer, one of several mixed breed pit bulls available for adoption through the North Haven Animal Shelter. Like the others, Homer was picked up as a stray in Hamden.
Because Hamden has no animal shelter animal control officers there work closely with North Haven’s Animal Control Officer and share North Haven’s facility on Universal Drive. To meet Homer or another available dog, call North Haven Animal Control Officer David Carney at 203-239-5321, ext. 415.
At the North Haven Animal Shelter, where eight dogs are available for adoption, it is easy to look into their soulful eyes and become smitten.
With eight of its nine runs occupied, seven of those with dogs of pit bull mix, other questions have risen: is there an epidemic of stray pit bulls? And, is the breed itself dangerous or threatening?
The questions arose after an incident in Hamden last month in which a 60-pound mixed breed dog, being walked on a leash with its owners in broad daylight on a Saturday afternoon, was brutally attacked by a stray pit bull.
The leashed dog survived, but the pit bull had to be shot four times by a police officer before it released its grip on the other dog’s neck.
“It was totally unprovoked and without warning,” Scott Howland said of the attack on his dog. Howland and his girlfriend have walked their dog in Hamden’s Dunbar Hill neighborhood daily for years.
Because Hamden does not have an animal shelter, dogs picked up in that town are taken to the North Haven Animal Shelter.
While Howland maintains the pit bull is by nature an aggressive dog, animal control officers in Hamden and North Haven believe otherwise.
“We’ve adopted out some wonderful pit mixes,” said Chris Smith, an animal control officer in Hamden. “These dogs want to be saved.”
Hamden’s Captain Ron Smith believes the Dunbar Hill attack was an isolated incident.
“I think some of it is due to economic problems where people can’t take care of their dogs and are letting their dogs loose,” Capt. Ron Smith said. “A lack of responsible dog owners is the problem, not the pit bulls themselves.”
Chris Smith adds that sometimes the dogs are found in unusual places. One pit bull mix was found at the Sav-A-Lot store on Dixwell Avenue running up and down the aisles.
“They’re really sweet dogs,” he said. “They want to please you.”
But both Smiths and North Haven Animal Control Officer David Carney say they can tell right away if an animal is aggressive. Aggressive dogs are deemed “unadoptable,” and are not adopted out.
“If you approach the dog and it starts growling and showing its teeth, that’s an aggressive dog,” Capt. Ron Smith said.
The December attack on Howland’s dog led the Dunbar Hill Civic Association to host a meeting to address the issue of wild dogs.
“The primary advice is that everybody in the neighborhood needs to band together and if they see a dog roaming to contact the police immediately,” Capt. Ron Smith said.
He added that many who attended the meeting talked about carrying pistols and cited the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
But Capt. Ron Smith maintains that isn’t the answer.
“The biggest fear at the police department is that an innocent bystander would be struck by a stray bullet,” he said. “We’re not recommending that everyone walk around with a gun.”
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