TOLLAND, Conn. -- A hearing in Rockville Superior Court on Thursday will decide the future of Luna, a Siberian Husky that twice has killed neighborhood chickens.
But the tale of how Luna ended up with her life on the line -- and her own Facebook page -- is convoluted, involving misunderstandings and miscommunications.
It started on June 14, when Tolland animal control officer Tina Binheimer notified Luna's owner, Paul Doyle, that she had placed a restraint order on the dog, meaning that Doyle needed to fortify his invisible fence, which wasn't keeping the dog in. Binheimer said she had picked up Luna numerous times for roaming and once for killing a neighbor's chickens.
Doyle said he never complied with the order that an enclosure be built by June 18, saying Luna would "go berserk" if he confined her. On June 20, Luna escaped and attacked the neighbor's chickens a second time.
That prompted Binheimer to put a "disposal order" on the dog, meaning Luna had to be put down no later than June 21.
"After there's a restraint order put on the dog, we really don't have any other place to go other than a disposal order," she said.
When Doyle was served the disposal order, he brought the dog to the Tolland Veterinary Hospital later that morning, although he said Binheimer told him he had 14 days to challenge the order.
"I probably wasn't thinking through all my options as clearly as I could have," said Doyle. Binheimer said Doyle could have brought the dog to the pound if he wanted to take the time to weigh his options.
But once Doyle got to the veterinary hospital, he changed his mind at the vet's recommendation.
Janice Evans, a secretary at Tolland Veterinary Hospital, said it was the opinion of the hospital that Luna was not aggressive or hostile and should not be put down.
But according to Evans, who answered the phone, Binheimer called the hospital on June 20 and said the dog needed to be put down by 3 p.m. that day. Doyle's decision to challenge the disposal order, and Binheimer's compliance with that, kept Luna alive.
Luna's fate prompted Pennie Hodges, who owns two Siberian Huskies, to start a Facebook page: "Save Luna from the Tolland CT Dog Pound." The page garnered nearly 1,000 "likes," and came to the attention of the New York-based animal legal defense group The Lexus Project and its lawyer, group founder Richard Rosenthal, who sought a temporary restraining order against Binheimer.
But Binheimer said she didn't demand the dog be put down by 3 p.m., and said she also wasn't aware that Doyle intended to contest the disposal order. She said her call was prompted by compassion for the dog, and she was wondering why it hadn't been put down.
At Thursday's hearing, Rosenthal said, a judge will decide whether or not to uphold the restraining order preventing Luna from being put down. Rosenthal said he hopes the judge finds that the disposal order was illegal and Binheimer's actions violated Doyle's civil rights. Binheimer, who has been the town's animal control officer for five years, said she could have revoked the disposal order but prefers to let a third party make that decision.
The end result, Rosenthal hopes, is a new home for Luna. Doyle has already transferred ownership of Luna to The Lexus Project. Hodges, who is familiar with Luna's breed, said Siberian Huskies have a high prey drive, but are friendly toward humans.
Dan Heald, who owned the chickens that Luna killed, said he would be happy for Luna to find a new home, out of state.
"I could understand if the owner of the chickens was taking a hard line," said Rosenthal. "When the guy whose chickens were killed is saying 'Let it go,' what do they accomplish by putting (the dog) down?"
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