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Superior Court Judge: Luna To Live (Update)

Luna's owner was ordered to have her euthanized after the Siberian husky killed five chickens.

Update, 11:30 a.m., Aug. 4

A Rockville Superior Court Judge has removed the disposal order that required that Luna, a Siberian husky, be euthanized.

Town officials and those from the Lexus Project appeared in court this morning to discuss the order, given after Luna, a dog with a history of roaming, killed five domestic chickens. Luna has also killed a domestic duck and harassed domestic goats.

Richard Rosenthal, an attorney with the Lexus Project, said he was going to ask the court to determine whether Tolland's disposal order was illegal, according to state statute.

Update, 6 p.m., Aug. 3

The town and the Lexus Project were unable to reach an agreement today in regards to Luna, according to the Lexus Project attorney Richard Rosenthal. Instead, Luna's case will be heard tomorrow morning at Rockville Superior Court.

According to Rosenthal, the Lexus Project will be asking the court to determine if Tolland's disposal order was, in fact, illegal, according to state statute. 

Public Safety Supervisor John Littell said that he considers the case to be in the Department of Agriculture commissioner's hands. The town has filed paperwork for a hearing on Luna's case.

Littell said that there is no way the town will euthanize Luna until the hearing is conducted. He said that the results of the hearing will determine what happens to the Siberian husky. 

"Our hands are tied," Littell said. "We're not putting the dog down."

Check Tolland Patch tomorrow for coverage of Luna's hearing.

Update, 9:50 a.m., Aug. 3

According to the Lexus Project attorney Richard Rosenthal, the town may reach an agreement regarding Luna as early as this morning. Rosenthal said that the Tolland town attorney is reviewing paperwork that would withdraw the town's disposal order.

If the agreement is signed, Rosenthal said Luna would be turned over to his care. He plans on bringing her to a rescue group in Massachusetts that has expressed an interest in taking care of Luna.

The possible agreement comes right before the first court date in Luna's case, which would take place tomorrow at Rockville Superior Court. Rosenthal said in an interview on Tuesday, that The Lexus Project was going to court to get a restraining order that would bar the town from euthanizing Luna until the case was resolved. 

The Lexus Project is a non-profit organization that provides legal services for dogs in need of representation.

Public Safety Supervisor John Littell and Animal Control Officer Tina Binheimer could not be reached by the time of publication.

Original story

Tolland residents and dog lovers all over are mobilizing online to debate the case for a local Siberian husky named Luna, whose owner has been issued an order to put Luna down after she killed five chickens belonging to a neighbor.

Luna, who is currently housed in the Tolland Animal Control Shelter, is awaiting a hearing to appeal the disposal order, but animal lovers from near and far have already begun a raging debate about her story on Facebook. The page has attracted 334 “likes.”

“I don’t want to put her down for killing chickens,” Luna’s owner, Tolland resident Paul Doyle, said. Doyle, who has previously owned two other Siberian huskies, said that Luna is the only animal he’s owned that frequently roamed the neighborhood.

Doyle said that it is natural for the breed to hunt birds, and that it is not necessarily a sign that the dog would be aggressive towards people.

“Most dogs will attack fowl like that, particularly huskies,” he said.

However, Tolland Animal Control Officer Tina Binheimer said that this is not Luna’s first offense. Although Luna is only five and a half years old, Binheimer says that the dog has a history of roaming that goes back five years. She said that she has issued citations and tickets for roaming, and that the dog has also harassed goats and killed a domestic duck.

The most recent trouble began when Luna killed a pet chicken in early June. Binheimer says that she issued a restraining order, requiring the dog to be kept in a pen. While Doyle had until June 18 to build a suitable enclosure, he admits that he did not think it would logical to pen her.

“She would go berserk,” Doyle said. “She’s a fairly high-strung dog. I’ve seen her at the pound one time, and she chewed through the spot welding on the bottom of the cage.”

Doyle tried to keep Luna in the house or clip her onto a run line, but she escaped again on June 20 and killed four more chickens at the same home. Binheimer then issued the disposal order, a standard practice after an animal has a history of attacking other pets.

According to Binheimer, she gave Doyle until June 21 to decide if he wanted to put Luna down by bringing her to the vet or have her held at the town shelter. If he decided to put her in the shelter he would be granted 14 days during which he could dispute the disposal order. Doyle initially agreed to put Luna down, bringing her to the veterinarian on June 20.

“He knew that there was a problem,” Public Safety Supervisor John Littell said.

Yet, Doyle changed his mind after talking to the veterinarian and decided to appeal the decision on June 21. Luna was then put under the town’s protection, where she is being taken care of at the animal shelter.

Regarding claims that the town is acting unfairly towards Luna, Littell said that the town has followed proper procedure to the letter, and for good reason.

“From a liability standpoint, we’ve always followed standard process,” Littell said.

He added that if Luna were to be released without a hearing and went on to attack another animal or possibly a person, the town would be held liable. He also explained that if Luna were released through a loophole, then other owners would feel mistreated if their pets were not afforded the same leniency.

“Tina has handled this case excellently,” Littell said. He and two animal control officers from the state Department of Agriculture have reviewed every aspect of the case and declared that procedure has been properly followed.

There will be no decisions regarding Luna’s case until a commissioner from the Department of Agriculture schedules a hearing for the case and makes a ruling.

“The dog will have a fair chance,” Littell said. “The commissioner is going to make a fair judgment.” He added that it is possible that the commissioner will remove the disposal order, but keep Luna under a restraining order.

The hearing will be held in late August or September at the earliest, according to Littell.

Binheimer stressed that the town has little history of putting dogs down. She said that the town has a 95 percent adoption rate and only puts down one to two dogs a year, either due to violent behavior or extreme illness.

Tolland resident Dan Heald, owner of the slain chickens, said that he is frustrated that some residents do not consider his lost birds as “real pets.”

“These are chickens that my kids take care of,” he said. “They’re pets to them.”

Heald added that his 4-year-old son witnessed the first attack. In fact, Heald was close to killing Luna himself during the attack, which he was legally allowed to do.

“After the first attack, the dog did become aggressive with me,” he said. He said he decided not to shoot the animal because he would feel badly.

Heald said that he supports placing the dog in a rescue shelter or keeping it penned to prevent more attacks. He does not want the dog placed near Tolland in case it escapes again.

“I’ve brought the dog back in the middle of the day numerous times,” he said, adding that the dog has become a nuisance.

A cursory glance at the Facebook page for Luna shows that her story brings up passionate responses from many. Carol Benway, owner of the Hidden Acres boarding kennel on Plains Road, close to Doyle’s home, has already offered to take Luna in, but was declined.

“It’s so unjust. It’s ridiculous. They’ve made a mountain out of a molehill,” Benway said, echoing the sentiments of many people commenting online. Benway said that she and her daughter decided to start the Facebook page together.

Littell asks those concerned for Luna to remember that town employees are required to fulfill their responsibilities and are simply doing their jobs.

“We can’t let our feeling get in the way of our jobs,” he said. “People should believe that we’ve done everything that we can.”

Opinions on Luna’s story can be found on the Facebook page, ‘Save Luna from the Tolland CT Dog Pound.'

P. Hodges July 30, 2011 at 06:50 PM
This whole thing (which this article does not state) started due to the disposal order which was questioned of it's legal standing and of the Tolland ACO's handling of this case. The vet and Carol Benway has also played a much larger role in this than they are given credit for. Luna is now represented by a legal team called The Lexus Project.
P. Hodges July 30, 2011 at 07:02 PM
Just a add on to the top. Tolland Vet, Janice Evans (from the vets office) and Carol Benway are why Luna is alive today.
Jim G. July 30, 2011 at 07:12 PM
Being a responsible dog owner means being able to control your dog. it sounds as if the owner has never been able to properly control this dog, which (given a husky's size and the breed's tendency to be defensive of its area and "pack mates") means it's a hazard - to drivers, to people who might make a threatening encounter, and obviously to local livestock. I have dogs; I love dogs; I would never advocate euthanizing one or forcing an owner to dispose of it for anything but the most extreme reasons. A five-year history of not being able to keep this animal where it belongs, and out of aggressive trouble, needs serious consideration no matter how many emotional arguments are made.
Carol Benway July 30, 2011 at 08:43 PM
Proper procedure was NOT followed by the ACO. This will be confirmed in court. We have documentation to this effect. By the way, according to vet records, Luna will be 5 in August. Perhaps she was roaming in the womb.
Jim G. July 30, 2011 at 09:25 PM
It sounds very much as if Luna's supporters are looking for every loophole and technicality rather than addressing the whole matter. Is there any dispute that Luna killed the chickens? The duck? Attacked the goat? Has been cited for roaming multiple times over the years?
Gail Roberts July 30, 2011 at 09:48 PM
Luna should not have to pay the ultimate price because she has a moron for an owner. Dogs escape crappy confinement. Dogs chase small critters. (think: retrievers and pointers after birds, terriers after rats, herding dogs after sheep?) They are rewarded and encouraged to do so. Luna didn't understand that the chickens and duck were "special" and "off limits"--she is a dog! Please place this dog with a bonafide, reputable, knowledgeable Siberian Husky rescuer, so she will be placed in a PROPER and KNOWLEDGEABLE home where she will not escape and get into trouble. She was displaying NORMAL behavior, for heaven's sake. The owner was showing ABnormal behavior by not providing a proper home for her. I am a husky rescuer and have taken in dogs with like histories, and placed in a proper home, they NEVER get out and do such things again, and for heaven's sake they are NOT a danger to any person!
AliKay July 30, 2011 at 09:55 PM
I do not think the solution to the problem is killing to the dog. The owner states he does not want to put the dog down for "killing chickens." Let's be honest, this is not about the dog killing chickens! That's not the dogs fault, she's a dog! And while her killing chickens does not mean she would kill a human she did become aggressive while protecting her prey. Again, not her fault. BUT...even if she WAS just "protecting her prey" as stated on Facebook - what if the next time she gets out and kills a bird it is YOUR child she gets aggressive with? A young child might try to save the "prey" from the dog and I shiver to think about what could happen then! NO ONE should have to worry about a roaming dog coming onto their property and killing a pet or hurting their child. It is against the law for dogs to roam, period. There are good reasons for that law. The owner has not done enough to stop the roaming and it is HE people should be angry with, not the town. I pray that a solution can be found that does not involve killing this beautiful dog - but this cannot continue to happen. I am NOT glad that the only solution the town has come up with is killing to dog but I AM glad that the town is trying to protect it's citizens by stopping the roaming.
debbie bell July 31, 2011 at 12:38 AM
If it is illegal for someone to enter my property and stab my pet(s) to death, why does the owner think it ok for him to allow his dog to do esentially that. Change the laws: what the dog does, the owner is charged with. Make this trespassing and felony animal abuse. Those convicted of animal abuse cannot live with or own a pet again.
debbie bell July 31, 2011 at 12:42 AM
To the owner of the dog: You own a high energy dog. It was your responsibility to provide for her needs. If you didn't want to fence her, then run her on a leash. Please give Luna up to a quality home. Please never own a dog again. You give dog owners a bad name.
Pauline July 31, 2011 at 02:14 AM
I'm sorry Jim G. but apparently you don't know much about Siberian Huskies. They are not a very large dog, males should top out at about 60lbs. and they are one of the least "defensive of their areas" They make terrible watch dogs, as they tend to love everyone. I've owned 8 so far and have fostered over 18 more. I should know. Yes they are prey driven, and yes they can be hard to contain, but that is the owner's fault, not the dog's and the dog should not have to pay for it's owner's inabilities. There is no reason this dog should have to die, when there are rescues out there willing to take it. (Rescues in other states besides where this incident occurred.)
Joe G July 31, 2011 at 03:45 AM
If Luna's owner is a moron, she can't be anything better. Jim G, if I have ever heard an asinine statement this is it.The dogs actions are not a reflection of the owner, it is breed instinct. You also need to be educated about the Siberian breed. So here goes, Siberian Huskies are social dogs. They thrive on the company of people and other dogs! They need constant companionship and attention. Siberian Huskies are fond of children and love to play with them. But like ALL dogs, they should be supervised whenever they are around small children. I myself have 2 Sibes, with a 3rd on the way from GA, and they love the little ones in my neighborhood. That's why I adopted Siberian. Oh, by the way, my female Sibe tangled with a skunk last night and killed it. I guess using your analogy her action is a reflection of me and she should pay the ultimate price.
AliKay July 31, 2011 at 04:36 AM
Pauline, I agree this dog should not be killed but should go to a new home where it will have a new owner who will be willing to take the necessary precautions to keep her from roaming over and over again. I agree it is not the owner’s fault that Huskies can be difficult to contain but it IS the owner’s fault that the necessary precautions were not taken in order to prevent the dog from roaming over and over again. Regardless of a dogs breed, size or tendencies it should not be allowed to roam, more for their own protection than anything else. There is more of a chance that a wild animal will attack a dog than there is a chance that a dog will attack a human. Bottom line, the owner was given many chances to rectify the situation but did nothing to fix it and now that poor dog is suffering for it – not to mention the four year old who had to witness the attack on his pet. Shame on the owner for letting this happen.
AliKay July 31, 2011 at 04:37 AM
Amen, Gail! Well said!
Spike July 31, 2011 at 05:38 AM
Disgusted with the wayTolland AC is handling this. What sort of animal control officer would state that a dog that kills chickens would ever harm a human? This would be laughable if they now weren't trying to kill an animal whose only crime is to get break away and kill. That's what many a dog will do when left to their own devices. Tolland Animal Control should know that escaping is typical of Husky's. Poor Luna's owner should have taken the time to build a sturdy enclosure and not left his dog unattended outside. But, really, Tolland AC is taking this to a much higher and crazier level. I feel badly for both this wonderful dog and the neighbors chickens.
Jim G. July 31, 2011 at 01:12 PM
You know, I stand second to no one in my love for dogs, and I'm one of those people that dogs will seek out in a crowd for attention or help. But blind apologists such as here and on the FB page do a disservice to the canophile community. Does Luna or does she not have a multi-year history of roaming and attacking other animals? No one's countered or questioned that, so I'll take it as being true. No amount of emotionalism can wish away the fact that there's a deeply troubling problem here, and that even a skilled rescuer may not be able to fix it. Any dog, of any breed, is capable of aggression and a Chihuahua can maul a child and leave lifetime scars. Luna's a dog who was raised badly, allowed to roam inappropriately and - whether from some natural inner drive or mishandling - has learned it's fun/okay/satisfying to chase and kill other animals. This needs to be considered at a dispassionate, rational level, and not with emotional, nearly irrational arguments.
Marcia August 01, 2011 at 02:08 AM
This is not just emotionalism, it is breed knowledge and lack of responsible pet ownership. If this man was not willing to conform to the needs of his dog and neighbors he should have given her up a long time ago! There are very few breeds that just love the human race as these do. We have been doing rescue work for over 30 years and primarily for the northern breeds and wolfdogs and only ONE time did we have an animal get loose and yes she killed a neighbor's chicken. Trust me that we took responsibility, made restitution, apologized AND made sure it never happened again. *Carol, if they really just want her further away you can offer to send her to us in TN...maybe that would satisfy them and I promise she would go to a responsible home that would understand her! She is beautiful and just a typical husky that needs someone to love, train and understand her needs as I am sure you already know.
Jim G. August 01, 2011 at 09:54 PM
Marcia, I wouldn't dispute any of that... but you are aware that pit bull, Rott and Doberman owners say exactly the same things about their breeds. Whatever may be true about a breed's general characteristics, it comes down to a dog-by-dog evaluation. Luna is a dog that's learned to roam, stalk and kill. Let's set aside any possible threat to people... can you reasonably guarantee she'll never kill a cat, small dog, chicken, rabbit or other smaller "prey" that crosses her path? I have over 40 years of dog experience and I would make no such assurance no matter now much rescue therapy is applied. Nor can you control Luna's future and keep her from every being around children, small animals etc. for the remainder of her life. It's unreasonable emotionalism to push aside these very real concerns in an effort to save Luna "at any cost" - when that cost could include a mauled child, or someone who may have to watch their pet killed as "prey." I don't know what the answer is here. I don't know the players; I don't know Luna. But as a responsible dog owner and lover, I dislike both careless owners who damage a dog AND blind apologists who set aside reality when it comes to making a sensible decision about a potentially damaged and dangerous dog.
Peggy Chirico August 04, 2011 at 02:39 AM
I have owned a Husky and now own a Husky/Golden mix. Both were/are the sweetest dogs ever, but each has killed several animals (who came into their yard by the way). Would I want my dogs put down for that? Absolutely not. Huskies are born to wander and hunt--it's what they do but that doesn't mean that they are a threat to anything else. Huskies are work dogs and pack animals. If they are given ways to satisfy their natural urges, there is less of a problem. But if they are not exercised, given lots of space, and allowed to interact with their pack (humans), they will be sad animals. I feel badly that Luna has been kept in solitary confinement for so many weeks--that alone is punishment enough. As others have said, the owners are responsible for their animals, and even Michael Vicks' dogs got a reprieve!
Robert Lyman August 04, 2011 at 11:58 AM
As a responsible dog owner, I agree with Jim G. The article clearly states the animal control officer did her job properly, and that Luna has has a history of a roaming problem. I can imagine how Mr. Heald feels by having to had deal with this problem, as he has the right to not be affected by a neighbor's dog misbehavior. If any of you disagree with what is going on with Luna, why don't you step up and take the dog in? My guess that this dog is a handful and probably cannot be controlled. Also, I hope the owner is fined, and also billed for the town keeping the dog in their kennel.
Carolyn McLeod August 04, 2011 at 09:31 PM
I am glad this beautiful dog will find a more suitable home BUT please don't blame the town. NO town can allow a dog to roam free killing other animals---(forget that garbage about just natural instincts. It does not apply to a pet in residential areas). There is a law against that and the owner canNOT expect exceptions.The town followed procedures that EVERYONE must live by ---including this owner. May Luna have a long happy life in a GOOD, appropriate environment.

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