Fitchburg Animal Control Kills Owned Pet During Holding Period

Capone, as pictured on the WHDH website.
Capone, as pictured on the WHDH website.

On April 20, 2014, MA pet owner Maghan Moynihan says her family’s 2 year old dog Capone escaped through an open door while not wearing his collar.  She immediately got in her car, searching for him on every street in the area.  She also called Fitchburg ACO Sue Kowaleski, with whom she had established a relationship due to Capone’s previous escapes, to advise that he was lost.

Ms. Moynihan says she didn’t receive a return phone call from the ACO until Tuesday morning.  Oddly, the ACO was calling to ask her if Capone had ever been aggressive.  Ms. Moynihan said that Capone had absolutely never displayed any aggression and that she trusted the gentle pet with her children, ages 4 and 8.  Odder still, the ACO showed up at the Moynihan family’s home a few hours later.  This time, the ACO requested Ms. Moynihan and her partner drive down to the pound to identify a stray dog whom the pound had killed for aggression recently. That dog was Capone:

“It was horrible. He was freezing cold. He was on a table. They had a blanket over him. They pulled it down to show us the face. We all lost it in there.”

Ms. Moynihan was heartbroken and wants to know what happened but the pound has provided very little information to date. It is known that Capone got into a building on the day he escaped where a Good Samaritan held onto him until AC arrived. The Good Sam, who was with Capone most of the day, described the dog as being friendly to him and his girlfriend, growling only at their dog and at the ACO who impounded him with a chokepole.

Regarding the circumstances that resulted in Capone’s quick killing:

Amy Egeland, the part-time manager of the Fitchburg Animal Shelter, also said she is unable to comment because of the investigation. The shelter is mostly staffed by volunteers, including Carol Stacy who said Capone was a vicious, aggressive dog that indirectly caused Egeland to be injured and was a known problem animal in another city.

Stacy said Capone was aggressive and tried to escape his cage in front of Egeland and visiting certified animal experts who train and evaluate the visitors. Stacy said Capone got halfway out of his cage and attacked another dog, which became agitated and attacked Egeland.

So it was the other dog, not Capone, who injured the shelter manager.  But Capone, having bitten no person, is the one who had to be killed?

He was a problem in another city? Does the city of Fitchburg play the Telephone Game in order to determine which pets they want to kill?

Fitchburg staff and/or vols failed to keep Capone properly confined at the pound and allowed him to get into a fight with another dog they had irresponsibly placed directly in front of his cage. Then they killed him, effectively destroying the evidence of any wrongdoing.

“It wasn’t that sweet little dog people are making it out to be,” said Stacy.

This is how the Fitchburg vols talk about family pets who were killed during the holding period? Just eww.

The city now claims that ACO Kowaleski was sick on the day Capone escaped and did not receive Ms. Moynihan’s message. Though ACO Kowaleski was apparently available to talk on the phone to Ms. Stacy regarding Capone:

She said Kowaleski was notified of what happened but did not see Capone. Kowaleski authorized [Assistant ACO Michael] East to euthanize the animal, Stacy said.

The city of Fitchburg’s website gives ACO Kowaleski’s phone number as the solitary contact for owners to report lost pets.  There are no other contact names or numbers.  The opening sentence on the pound’s Petfinder page reads:

Fitchburg Animal Shelter holds all stray dogs for 7 days.

I keep going back to that initial phone call to the owner by the ACO on Tuesday morning, asking if Capone was aggressive. Does this whole thing not reek of cover-up?

The city of Fitchburg still has not provided Ms. Moynihan with answers regarding why Capone was killed during the holding period. The city police department is investigating the city AC department in the matter. Ms. Moynihan wants the person who authorized Capone’s killing to be fired. And she wants people to know that her pet was family to her:

“He loved playing with other dogs, he loved playing with the kids. He was just like my son. Just another kid.”

Fitchburg taxpayers, this is your animal “shelter”. Demand that the city staff start doing their jobs to shelter animals and hold lost pets so their owners can reclaim them. Maybe if the city starts doing its job instead of killing owned pets, the pound might attract more compassionate volunteers, which would also be a plus.

(Thanks Clarice and Bonnie for sending me this story.)

19 thoughts on “Fitchburg Animal Control Kills Owned Pet During Holding Period

  1. Shameful.

    I wonder if they accidentally screwed up and killed the wrong dog, and are now trying to justify it.

    Or if they were harassing a stressed dog.

  2. Or if they were tired of him escaping and just decided to be done with the hassle and killed him for it.

    I wonder if they killed the other dog, too? You know, just to be thorough.

    1. I thought the same thing, and I wonder if they ever counseled Ms. Moynihan about these escapes and gave her any advice about how to prevent them. Isn’t that kind of their job?

      I bet they killed the other dog too, but no owner has come forward to say anything about it.

  3. Carol Stacy needs to be relieved of her duties. Since when is a volunteer the spokesman for a city entity? And referring (repeatedly) to the dog in this story as “it” reveals the true nature of her feelings towards animals. Our sympathies to Ms. Moynihan and her family on the loss of Capone.

  4. Instead of going after clearly disorganized and untrained volunteers who run their shelter, the town and its citizens ought to get their act together and pony up some tax money to staff it with paid, trained workers. This story inadvertently calls attention to the fact that animals and their welfare are not a priority for this community.

  5. It is always heartbreaking to lose a beloved family member, but when they are needlessly killed by people that don’t care, it is worse. Shame on these incompetent, cold hearted animal control employees. I’m hoping Karma takes care of them, because we know their employer won’t take any action against them.

  6. How about the owners being to blame here. The dog looks to have gotten out multiple times before. This is 100% the owners fault. Keep control of your dogs and this won’t happen. I own a handful of a breed of dogs well known for escaping and wandering and haven’t had a “walk away” in over 10 years. Fix your fencing or don’t own a dog.

    1. You “own a handful of a breed of dogs well known for escaping” yet you haven’t had an escape in 10 years. You must be so proud. But not proud enough to use your real name. Peddle your blame the owner bullshit somewhere else.

  7. This stinks to high heaven! To choke pole a dog, stuff him in a cage and then either put another dog directly in front of him more or less to induce him to fight or to simply stress him to the max? Good plan there, if you’re looking for any excuse to kill one or more dogs. Which it seems likely they were. Then to claim “It” wasn’t the sweet dog the owner thought he was? These people can never sink too low, they’d have to crawl under snakes as this point.

  8. We sometimes hear that New England is better than the rest of the country — S&N so successful there that they have to import animals, etc. But the playbook this town is working from is so familiar . . . it’s used in every region of the country to excuse the needless abuse and killing of shelter animals.

    1. Yeah, it’s the same old crap. Every time I hear about how great things are “up north,” the explanation involves the phrase “healthy and adoptable.” If you’re only saving “healthy and adoptable” animals and killing the rest while you import more “healthy and adoptable” animals then that’s not No Kill. Not even close.

  9. I don’t think places like this should have the right to call themselves “SHELTER” because they clearly have no idea what the word means
    “Shelter: a place that provides food and protection for people or animals that need assistance, to protect from danger.”

  10. This “volunteer” Stacy sounds like a PeTA operative. This is how they get their stripes and move up the organization. Just like the ones in NC. There was one who used to volunteer at a kill shelter in NY. She would actually change the cage cards so there were more animals killed- especially cats. When the director found out they barred her from volunteering. So she set about the rural
    Community setting up traps without permission on people’s property and would take them in – say they were feral and have them killed. Well a couple of citizens lost their pet cats this way- so they barred her from even being on the shelters property- this I got directly from the director when I asked him if he knew who she was. I had met her when PeTA had paid a shelter in PR to hire her paying her salary and all her expenses. I was appalled at how she literally had an organism when she killed. This was witnessed when a woman and her 6 yr old daughter brought one of their rotties to the shelter because it had gotten into a fight with their other dog. Rather than doing an intake, the paperwork, etc. and having the owners leave then analyzing the dog for adoption – she LITERALLY ran out to the parking lot grabbed the leash from the mothers hand wrestled the dog down between her legs and stabbed it in the neck with the fatal plus then actually dry humped the dead body. Was the most disgusting site I ever saw..

    1. yes and all who have adopted dogs and cats from this shelter are heart broken. Facebook is overwhelmed with comments from people who are just sick about the closure. There is no where to take the animals now so most likely they will be put down if picked up on the street.

  11. This shelter although not very pretty have many well trained and compassionate workers and volunteers. They work with all the dogs not just the bully breeds to make sure they are suitable for adoption. I actually visited this shelter and others looking for another dog for my home. I was so impressed with the volunteers I decided to volunteer also. I now foster cats for Fitchburg Animal Shelter and adopted the last one, she is now a part of my family. This is a tragic event and needs to be investigated but please do not judge people you do not know. Fitchburg is a poor city and without this shelter it will be overrun with unwanted cats and dogs. All of us have to make quick decisions that are difficult, please try and understand and let the investigation play out.

    1. ” …the city will essentially be returning to a former model. She said the city has established good working relationships with area shelters, but hopes that an entrepreneur will open a private shelter in Fitchburg.”

      Sounds like they’ll take dogs in, hold them for seven days, then kill them if a rescue group doesn’t pull them. And we all know how well police-run shelters operate, don’t we?

      And they won’t tell volunteers what happened to the last three dogs left in the shelter. It is a very safe bet that those dogs are dead.

      They don’t want the “liability” of running a shelter they say. Sounds like what they don’t want is the hassle of running one compassionately. Running a pet slaughterhouse is just so much easier, isn’t it?

  12. There’s always those who believe their above the law, and their not !!! Being in animal rescue, I fight to save lives, not kill !!! May the guilty in all this, pay dearly !!!

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