Neighbors are wondering why a city police officer was allowed to keep her pit bull after it attacked two other dogs, killing one.
Officer Misty Klementowski owns a pit bull named Lola who was the subject of two vicious dog complaints last year. The resulting hearings by the Animal Control Board led to orders that Lola be muzzled and on a fixed-length leash whenever she was off Klementowski’s property and that Lola not be confined to a fenced-in area while outdoors on the property.
That’s not enough for Bette Parker. Parker’s dog, a Maltese named Snowflake, was killed in the first of the two attacks.
“I’m very upset with how it’s been handled so far,” she said.
Klementowski herself did not respond to a call seeking comment.
According to the hearing record, Lola was tied up on the property of a neighbor who was looking after her for Klementowski when Parker walked by walking Snowflake. Lola pulled her tether’s anchor from the ground, according to the record, charged, picked up the smaller dog in her mouth and shook it around in the air. Onlookers separated the dogs, but Snowflake suffered broken ribs and other injuries, dying the next morning from suspected brain damage due to the shaking, according to the hearing record.
The second incident took place days later, and before the hearing was held regarding the first incident. Lola was on a runner on Klementowski’s property, according to the record, but the chain broke as a woman passed walking a Shih Tzu named Nora. Nora’s owner, Deborah Roy, placed herself between Nora and Lola and held onto the pit bull until Klementoski came out to restrain her.
Nora suffered injuries but was successfully treated, according to the record, and Klementowski paid the veterinary bill.
Parker expressed surprise that greater actions wasn’t taken against a dog involved in two incidents and she did not believe Klementowski was complying with the orders. She said she brought this up to Police Commission Chairman Sean Sargeant, who also heads the Animal Control Board, and Sargeant told her that if she sees Klementowski out of compliance, Parker should make a report to the animal control officer.
“That’s not my job,” she said. “I don’t go over on that street because I’m upset over there.”
Sargeant said the hearings are a two-part process. First, the board must determine if the dog fits the city’s definition of vicious. If it does, the board must then decide on a “prescription” for the dog.
“When we take up the second question, there are five members and usually five opinions,” he said, explaining that at least three members must agree on what is to be done about the dog.
Sargeant was adamant that Klementowski received no special treatment.
“There is no way in hell Officer Klementowski’s employment in the city affected the decision or the prescription in any way,” he said. “If the community does not feel the board’s prescription is severe enough, they can appeal the matter to superior court.”
A search of the city’s records found one other case since the 2016 rewrite of the city’s animal control ordinance in which a single dog was implicated in two separate attacks. That case resulted in an order that the dog be permanently removed from the city. Sargeant said the board stopped issuing such orders after a civil court decision indicated they did not serve public safety and will now order a dog killed if the members do not believe other measures will successfully restrain it.
Sargeant also said the facts differed between the two cases. The record for the prior hearings show that the dog was such a problem in the neighborhood that the U.S. Postal Service has stopped delivering to certain addresses because of the dog, whereas one of Klementowski’s neighbors testified that he had never known Lola to be aggressive.
“I have nothing but sympathy for Betty. I can only do what I’m allowed to do in the charter and ordinance of the city of Rutland,” Sargeant said.