Hero Dogs Held Hostage!

     HARTFORD (CN) – After two pet Rottweilers defended their owner from an attack on her own property, the City of Colchester took them away and won’t give them back, nearly a year later, the dogs’ trustee claims in court.
     Robin Mittasch sued the Town of Colchester, its First Selectman Gregg Schuster, several animal control officers and the city policeman in charge of the animal patrol division, in Federal Court.
     Mittasch sued on behalf of a trust established for the dogs, Stella Blue and Tazzy, who protected their former owner, Michelle Chapman-Avery, from attack.
     “This is a case of two dogs that were provoked and defended their property and owner from unfamiliar and unknown outsiders,” the complaint states. “On or about December 19, 2011, Tazzy, an elderly 11½ year old Rottweiler, and Stella Blue, a 50-pound, 3 year old Rottweiler runt, witnessed an attack by a group of assailants unknown to them on their owner, Michelle Chapman-Avery. At the time of the attack, Stella Blue and Tazzy were inside the home of their owner, Michelle Chapman-Avery. Being alerted to commotion and provocation on their property, and potential harm to their owner, the dogs responded in a reasonable manner. In the process, the individual who had pinned owner Michelle Chapman-Avery to the ground was allegedly bitten by Stella Blue and sustained minor bruising. Both dogs immediately retreated.
     “Despite their reasonable reaction in light of the provocation, both dogs were illegally seized, without due process, and Stella Blue is now in the languishing custody of one or more of the defendants, in violation of the rights of the trustee. Tazzy was also wrongly and illegal withheld, causing harm to the trust and trustee; however, immediately before the filing of this suit, he was released to spend his last days outside of the pound. His demise in health, and the associated outrageous unconstitutional deprivation from the trust, was directly due to defendants.”
     Stella Blue “nipped” one person, “but did not break skin,” the complaint states.
     “None of the defendants responded to repeated inquiries and requests from Michelle Chapman-Avery for documentation of the quarantine or for information concerning her rights,” the complaint states. “Further, she has at all times been denied the right to visit Stella Blue and Tazzy. No hearing on the forfeiture has ever been held.”
     The Department of Agriculture in June scheduled a hearing for Aug. 1, then postponed it until Friday, Aug. 24. State Agriculture Commissioner Stephen Reviczky is named as a defendant.
     Tazzy was released after his condition degraded so badly the defendants could not care for him, but Stella Blue “is being held in the Colchester pound, languishing and losing weight, in the same conditions that caused Tazzy to degrade,” the trustee says.
     “It is no secret the municipal kill shelters are ill-equipped to care for and provide homes for companion dogs, especially old, frail dogs such as Tazzy, and runts of the litter such as Stella Blue,” the complaint states. “Indeed, upon information and belief, Tazzy suffered a premature and painful demise in such unhealthy and inhumane circumstances given his age.”
     The trustee claims the defendants, including animal control officers Raymond Connors and Linda Wenner, refuse requests for information about Stella Blue.
     “The trust and trustee are being deprived of their property interest in the dogs, and are in fact incurring expenses charged by the defendants for their ‘care’ of the dogs,” the complaint states. “Even after Tazzy’s release, the trustee is being deprived of constitutional rights inasmuch as its property has been damaged, and taken without due process or compensation.”
     The trustee accuses the defendants of an “overbroad, vague, and facially and as applied unconstitutional statutory scheme under which these dogs are being arbitrarily, capriciously, illegally, and unconstitutionally deprived from the trust.”
     Mittasch seeks the immediate release of Stella Blue and “immediate and prospective injunctive relief enjoining defendants to implement regulations and protocols that afford substantive and procedural due process to dog owners.”
     The Companion Animal Trust for the benefit of Stella Blue and Tazzy is represented by Joseph J. Blyskal, with David Hill Associates.

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