WEST HAVEN — Even battle-hardened first responders involved in investigating the latest report of animal abuse feel it in their gut when they talk about it: a miniature schnauzer apparently lit on fire and killed over the weekend in the Sandy Point Beach parking lot.
“I don’t even think there’s a chance that even Hell would accept them,” said Chief of Police Joseph Perno, the owner of five Labrador retrievers — three yellow, one brown, one black, all rescues — when asked what he thought of the person who might commit such a crime.
“We’re asking anybody who could possibly have seen anything or anyone in the neighborhood who might have a video camera” to come forward and help, Perno said.
Administrators of the "West Haven: Why Not?" Facebook page have offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of whoever was responsible for the act.
Perno said he “couldn’t believe it would just be someone” getting rid of a no-longer-wanted pet. “There are so many other ways available to you” to do that, he said.
Police officers and firefighters responded to the area of Beach Street near Third and Second avenues early Friday for a report of an uncontained fire in the parking lot and found the dog, police Sgt. Charles Young said in a news release.
“The fire was extinguished and the initial investigation found a small dog (possibly a 1-year-old ‘mini schnauzer’ with cropped ears and a cropped tail) was located at the source of the fire and was now deceased,” Young said.
“Initial investigation suggests the canine had apparently been set on fire in the Sandy Point Beach parking lot and abandoned there. Initial investigation also suggests an accelerant was used,” he said.
Police are asking anyone who may have seen the fire or suspicious activity in the area between 10 p.m. July 4 and about 1 a.m. July 5 to call the West Haven Police Department at 203-937-3900, Detective Wolf at 203-937-3934 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or West Haven Fire Department Fire Marshall Keith Flood at 203-931-0031.
Anyone who is missing a small dog is asked to contact the Police Department or Animal Control.
Flood said firefighters initially didn’t know what had been set on fire and only found out that it was a dog the next day.
“We do have some evidence that we believe there were accelerents involved, and I do believe the necropsy is pending,” said Flood, who also is a dog owner — he has a Vizsla, or Hungarian pointer.
Flood said he would keep his opinion of the kind of person who would commit such a crime to himself, but said, “It’s a really horrific crime.”
West Haven Fire Department Chief Jim O’Brien said he hopes police catch the person who set the fire, “because they obviously need help.
“Who does that?” said O’Brien, also a dog owner who has a yellow Lab. “Anybody that does something like that to an animal, it’s sick,” he said. “I can’t imagine who would want to do that to a defenseless animal.”
The discovery of the burned dog came less than a week after a dog was found caged and dead in the woods of Bethany on July 1. An autopsy was performed on that dog last week and it was found to be healthy and with no underlying illness, though a toxicology report is pending, Woodbridge Animal Control officials said Friday.
If the toxicology report were to come back negative, it likely would mean the pit bull mix, named Stella posthumously by animal shelter staff, died of exposure, Animal Control Director Karen Lombardi said Friday, as the dog had been left in a cage in the woods for between 24-48 hours with no food or water in hot, humid conditions.
After the dog was found in Bethany, outrage among the animal advocacy community grew and the reward for the arrest and conviction of whoever left Stella jumped to $5,000 as of Friday, as a person from Branford, who wished to remain anonymous, dropped off a $3,000 check for the fund. That was paired with an original $2,000 from One Big Dog Animal Rescue Fund and Woodbridge resident Laura Torrence.
Lombardi has said she hopes increasing the fund will motivate anyone with information about the Bethany dog to come forward.
She believes someone knows Stella’s story — the healthy, gray-and-white dog with a brand-new purple collar probably lived inside a home, she said.