New Plans For Dealing With ‘Vicious’ Animals In New Haven

A deadly attack by two dogs in New Haven almost a year ago is prompting discussion in the city this week.

Ideas for dealing with "vicious" animals and improving safety are coming from another city in Connecticut. City leaders said that some of the proposed changes are coming from plans already in effect in the city of New Britain.

The plans are, in part, a response to an incident on June 20, 2016. New Haven police said two dogs viciously attacked a man and a woman inside a fenced yard on Ella T. Grasso Boulevard. Jocelyn Winfrey, 53, died from injuries to her legs, face, head and eyes.

From that tragedy has come action.

"Could we be better? That's what we're after," said Gerald Antunes, who is chair alder on the Public Safety Committee in New Haven.

The committee is leading efforts to enact tougher rules for ‘dangerous’ or ‘vicious’ animals in the city. Provisions would include identifying specific animals within city limits as 'vicious' or 'dangerous', such as a dog that has attacked, bitten or hurt a person without being provoked.

Antunes said New Haven is taking cues on the issue from similar rules already on the books in New Britain.

"We liked the idea that they didn't talk about the breed, but about the dog as an individual," said Antunes.

Many dog owners and dog lovers in New Haven said that safety for people and their pets should be paramount.

"Everybody's pet friendly. The streets are pet friendly," said Stefania Nicoli of New Haven, who admires the ongoing attempts to strengthen current regulations.

After the deadly incident last year, many people said they welcome the changes being proposed.

"You're always fearful when you see a dog and it looks like it can be threatening," said Diane Nolan, who was walking a dog with friends in Wooster Square on Tuesday.

City leaders are also recommending better communication, stronger protective gear, and immediately setting up a perimeter when first responders find themselves face-to-face with a potentially dangerous animal.

"We learn from our experiences, whether they are good experiences or bad; and this was a bad experience," said Antunes.

The dogs involved in the 2016 attack have since been euthanized. Changes to New Haven's current animal ordinances were being discussed by the Board of Alders on Tuesday and could be finalized and in effect by summer.

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