James Smollen and his wife and two dogs were walking at Veterans Park recently when a pit bull running free attacked their 27-pound beagle. Smollen lives right down the street from the park at Fairview Drive and often walks his dogs there.
"I saw the dog and yelled to its owner to put it back on a leash but as we were walking across the wooden bridge, the pit bull crossed the bridge and locked its jaws on my beagle," Smollen said. "The police came quickly and a nice officer called Animal Control. The dog had no license and no rabies shots. The owner on the police report has three addresses, two in New Britain and one in Berlin and two phone numbers."
Smollen took his dog immediately to the vet and incurred $1,800 in costs as his dog was bitten from the hind legs to the stomach. He estimated the pit bull was around 70 pounds, three times as big as his beagle.
Mayor Adam Salina and the Town Council sat stunned hearing Smollen tell of the incident. He questioned the council as to what to do next because the dog owner has not paid a dime of the expenses.
"As a citizen of Berlin, what should I do?" Smollen asked. "I want to know if I have any legal rights to try to get the veterinarian's bills back. I don't have almost $2,000 to spend.
"And while I would like to get my money back, I am really here to tell you I think we should have a leash law in all town parks and on town property. My dog got attacked. What would happen if that dog attacked a child?"
Salina gave the background to the leash law discussions.
"In the last several years a leash law has come up a number of times," he said. "We have gone back and forth with our thoughts on this. I am shocked that this happened at Veterans Park because I would never think to unleash a dog with all the busy streets around there. I was thinking it could happen in a more rural area.
"We had an issue at Bicentennial Park and do not have a dedicated dog park as many surrounding towns do. I am shocked to hear your story. We have gotten some pushback from dog owners in the past but we need to talk to Parks and Rec. and the Police and Animal Control. At some point, we need to take a stand. Dogs should be leashed on town-owned property."