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One dog in Norwich long-disputed destruction order euthanized after illness

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The older of two dogs held under a destruction order at the Norwich dog pound since October 2013 following a violent attack on a family has died, a city attorney has informed the state Appellate Court, a week before oral arguments in the owner’s latest appeal of the destruction order.

The city animal control officer seized the two pit bulls, Skyler and her daughter, Dolly, from owner Sheri Speer following the attack on three young children and their grandmother who were walking on Talman Street in front of Speer’s home.

Speer has argued through multiple appeals that the city failed to prove that her dogs were involved in the attack and continues to argue that since only one dog attacked the family, the city did not have authority to order both dogs to be destroyed. According to police reports and testimony at earlier hearings, the second dog chased after one of the children, who ran down the street to a neighbor’s house to hide.

Attorney Scott R. Ouellette, representing the city in the appeal, filed a notice with the Connecticut Appellate Court Tuesday stating that the older dog, Skyler, 12, “was medically and compassionately euthanized” by a veterinarian following a diagnosis that the dog was suffering from cancer. The veterinarian “indicated the dog’s prognosis and quality of life was poor,” the notice stated.

Speer and her lawyer, Thompson Page, were "advised and apprised of the condition of the dog and efforts and recommendations of the veterinarian throughout the process,” Ouellette wrote.

On Wednesday, Ouellette said the notice was provided to the court as a procedural matter on the eve of a scheduled remote oral argument before Judge Sheila Huddleston at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Page on Wednesday confirmed that Speer had been informed of the dog’s condition and the euthanasia recommendation at the time.

“They had contacted me,” Page said Wednesday. “It was just an unfortunate end-of-life decision.”

Speer has been fighting the destruction order since the incident occurred, first before the state Department of Agriculture and then to Superior Court and state Appellate Court. Superior Court judges twice upheld the ruling, and her Appellate Court appeal was dismissed last January, but the judge agreed to reconsider the case.

According to police reports and testimony, the attack occurred Oct. 8, 2013, in front of Speer’s home at 151 Talman St. Lisa Hall was walking her three young grandchildren from their home at 123 Talman St., a rental house owned by Speer, to the Bishop School playground.

One dog knocked over the baby stroller carrying then 9-month-old Marquice Downing and bit the baby’s forehead. The baby’s sister, Marlena Downing, then almost 5, was hailed as a heroine after she stuck her arm out to protect the baby. The dog grabbed her arm, tearing flesh, breaking her arm and inflicting bite wounds down to the bone, according to court records. Marlena Downing needed screws to repair her broken arm and spent four days in the hospital.

A passer-by stopped his car, grabbed a stick and struck the dog, while Hall kicked the dog and was bitten on her leg.

During the attack, Marlena’s twin sister, Audrena, ran screaming toward her home. The second dog chased her. The girl banged on the door of another tenant, and the woman let the child enter. The girl hid behind a couch until police arrived.

Police could not discern which of the dogs of similar appearance attacked the children and which chased the child down the street, a key point in attorney Page’s argument against the destruction order. Both dogs exhibited extremely aggressive behavior during their seizure by city police and were under limited contact orders at the city pound.

The surviving dog, Dolly, now is about 8 years old.

c.bessette@theday.com

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