More than one year after concerns about the condition of New Canaan’s animal shelter were raised publicly, and weighing in multiple times, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said last week that the facility falls within the jurisdiction of an appointed town body, not him.
People should voice their concerns about the shelter—a non-insulated former incinerator building, located at the town dump—to the Police Commission, Moynihan said during a Dec. 15 meeting of the Board of Selectmen.
“There has been lot of chatter about animal shelter,” Moynihan said during the meeting, held via videoconference.
“People don’t realize that the Police Commission doesn’t report to me and the animal control officer reports to the police chief, and I think if there’s issues that we want to raise here, people should raise them with the Police Commission,” he said.
The comments came during a discussion of general matters before the town.
Selectman Nick Williams had voiced concerns about the 800-square-foot Animal Control facility last October, memorably referring to it as “a dump within a dump.” Williams and then-Selectman Kit Devereaux said at the time that New Canaan should establish a public-private partnership to improve the facility. Moynihan pushed back, calling for further study, and the matter went unaddressed for about one year.
Then last month it was thrust back into a spotlight when police seized 12 dogs, including 10 puppies, from a Butler Lane home following a months-long neglect investigation. A 48-year-old woman has been arrested by warrant for three counts of felony cruelty to animals after three puppies died there. In a parallel civil case, the town has been granted temporarily custody of the 12 orphaned animals, some of whom are being cared for at the Lakeview Avenue facility. Williams last month called it “dark and dank” while Moynihan said it was humane and that he was awaiting a report regarding potential regionalization of Animal Control facilities.
That report is due to come out in March, officials have said, though during last week’s meeting, Moynihan appeared to pooh-pooh it.
“The trouble with regional things is our police officers want to be able to stay in town and immediately put a stray animal in custody so we can then decide—usually the family shows up and it is then returned to the family,” Moynihan said.
Williams pushed again for the town to support a public-private partnership for a better animal shelter.
“I think you and I talked about this in caucus and I think you know there are various options here—maintain the status quo, upgrade the current facility, move the current facility or outsource,” Williams told Moyinhan.
“And I agree with you: [Animal Control Officer] Allyson [Halm] works for Leon [Krolikowski] our police chief and the Police Commission, I think, has jurisdiction over this, but I have been inundated,” Williams said. “OK? Inundated. And I use that word recognizing that I have been doing this job for 10 years, by folks directly and indirectly saying, what can we do to help? So one of the suggestions I would have is perhaps giving folks the opportunity to contribute to a special projects fund dedicated to the Animal Control facility, whether we use that money to upgrade the current facility, to do something different, to relocate or to outsource to private providers. I would just throw that out there. Because, Kevin, as I told you last week, people are saying look I want to to contribute hard dollars to make this a better facility. So I think we should provide our citizens, our constituents the opportunity to do that.”
In response, Moynihan said only, “I would encourage everyone to, you know, there is a Police Commission meeting [Wednesday Dec. ] night. They have jurisdiction. I don’t have any control over what the Police Commission does.” (No one brought up the animal shelter at the Commission’s meeting; in January 2019, Moynihan had urged the Police Commission to approve ‘no left-turn’ signs on Nursery Road, over the recommendations of a paid professional traffic consultant and safety concerns of residents.)
During last week’s meeting, Moynihan also appeared to have a new take on a prospective public-private partnership.
After Williams noted that it is the Board of Selectmen—not the Police Commission—that establishes special project funds such as one that would take contributions toward an improved animal shelter, Moynihan said, “Anybody who wants to begin a process to having a public-private partnership probably on town land—that the town can always at least provide to do something—that I am not adverse at all to having an animal shelter special project.”
“It’s just that it has to come from the citizens up, and not from the town,” Moynihan said. “Because the current facility satisfies the need. The state comes in every year and examines our animal shelter and we pass every year.”
Regarding the condition of the shelter, Moynihan said, “Personally having observed it, and Tucker went over yesterday [Monday, Dec. 14]. I think the animal shelter is very humane and the puppies are being well taken care of.”
Moynihan referred to Tucker Murphy, who works for him.
Williams said the town “needs to do better with the Animal Control facility.”
“It’s simple,” he said. “We’re New Canaan. We can do better.”
In her first time weighing in on the matter publicly, Selectman Kathleen Corbet didn’t say whether she viewed the shelter as sufficient in its current condition, saying only, “I agree if it is not broken, why fix it? But I am always of the thing of, it might not be broken but we can always do better. So if that results in a community effort, I applaud that and would support that.”