This article was written by Eugene Driscoll of the Valley Independent Sentinel. Paul Singley of Oxford Patch contributed to the report.
The Derby Police Department has launched a criminal probe to determine whether any laws were violated while the municipal dog pound was under the supervision of former Animal Control Officer Joe Klapcik.
The case was opened Thursday morning, after Oxford Patch and the Valley Indy forwarded Derby Police Chief Gerald Narowski a copy of a letter from Seymour veterinarian Dr. T.C. Nanavati. (See the letter, attached to the right of this article as a PDF.)
The outlets forwarded the document to the chief in order to question him on the issue.
Nanavati’s letter described the condition of a male pit bull brought to his office after being found at the Derby Animal Control Facility on Coon Hollow Road Friday, April 13.
The dog appeared to be neglected, malnourished and had open sores on its legs, according to the letter.
State law governing municipal dog pounds dictate that any dog which appears sick or injured should be examined by a licensed veterinarian.
The pit bull in question had allegedly been in the Derby dog pound for two months.
"This appeared to be a credible complaint, which we received through the media, that there was some neglect involved,” Narowksi said Friday. “When we were forwarded the letter, we immediately started to investigate it as a criminal complaint. That case is still open."
Several messages have been left with Klapcik since Monday, April 16.
The pit bull was found April 13 at the Derby dog pound by Oxford Animal Control Officers Sandy Merry and Cori Wlasuk.
Oxford Animal Control was called to Derby because Klapcik, the Derby dog warden for 18 years, abruptly quit earlier in the day.
Merry and Wlasuk said they were shocked and angered at the condition of the pit bull and of Derby’s facility in general, which Wlasuk called “deplorable.”
The pit bull was one of six dogs in the pound. None of the other dogs needed medical attention.
Narowski said Derby police interviewed Nanavati Thursday and asked him about his letter.
Nanavati is also the vet used by the City of Derby.
Narowksi shared parts of Nanavanti’s statement -- namely that the injuries to the dog were not a sign of physical abuse, but may have been sustained by rubbing against walls or items inside the pound.
The chief said he did not see the wounds on the dog when he looked at the animal April 13.
The chief said Nanavati’s statement notes that the dog’s condition would not have been noticed by a person with an untrained eye simply walking by.
Oxford Animal Control Officer Reacts
Merry, who had asked for and received Nanavati's initial written statement describing the dog's condition April 13, said Friday she was pleased the Derby Police Department plans to investigate.
Merry said Friday she was pleased the Derby Police Department plans to investigate.
“I hope they get the evidence they need,” she said. “But after all the negativity that came Oxford’s way after we came in and did what they asked us to do - and we did that, plus some - Oxford is now out of the situation. I hope they find the evidence they need to pursue this.”
Other Areas Probed
Since allegations about the condition of the Derby dog pound were reported in local media and on social media sites this week, the Derby Police Department has been receiving statements from people who have a variety of complaints against Klapcik.
As a result of the statements being made by the public, Derby police are also investigating Klapcik’s “business practices,” Narowski said.
"We'll see if there is anything we need to take action on -- and then we will move on from this," the chief said.
While acknowledging Klapcik was sometimes a "problem employee" for the Derby Police Department, the chief defended the physical condition of the Derby dog pound, which has been called "filthy" and "deplorable" by Oxford animal control and dog advocates.
The chief reiterated the pound was acceptable under state law and had fared relatively well in four inspections by the state since 2006.
"The general theme of the public seems to be they want an animal rescue shelter in Derby," Narowski said. "Unfortunately, that is not what the Derby Police Department does. We were running a municipal dog pound."
Derby closed the dog pound on Tuesday. Animal control calls are being handled by Woodbridge. Derby and Woodbridge are working out an agreement that will see the towns pool resources for animal control services.
Doing so will provide better service for less money, Narowski said.
Meanwhile, Merry, the Oxford animal control officer, said she has made her last public statement on the issue.
The Derby dogs are now being held and are up for adoption at pounds in either Oxford or Woodbridge. (Click here for more information about the dogs on a Facebook page set up for the Derby Animal Shelter.)
“We went in there not knowing what kind of situation we'd find," Merry said. "We will still be involved if people want to fill out applications for the dogs. We are willing to help Woodbridge place those animals. That is what we set out to do in the first place. And we also brought a ton of stuff to them yesterday that people asked us to give to the Derby shelter.”
Finally, Art Gerckens, a member of the Derby Board of Aldermen, said Friday the dog pound issue has been added to the agenda of the April 26 Aldermen meeting. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.
Derby allows public comment at the start of each meeting.
“There are always public portions at these meetings, so feel free to come and express yourself,” Gerkens posted on the Valley Indy Facebook page Friday.