Tree damages Norwich animal shelter

Volunteer Rhonda Levesque takes two dogs to her car after a tree fell on the Norwich Animal Control kennel, located in Mohegan Park, on Tuesday. Five dogs were in the shelter at the time of the incident.
Dana Jensen/The Day Volunteer Rhonda Levesque takes two dogs to her car after a tree fell on the Norwich Animal Control kennel, located in Mohegan Park, on Tuesday. Five dogs were in the shelter at the time of the incident.

Norwich — A chocolate Labrador retriever city Animal Control staff named "Murphy" might want to change his name to "Lucky" after he emerged uninjured but covered with ceiling foam debris after a large pine tree crashed through the roof at the Norwich Animal Control kennel in Mohegan Park Tuesday afternoon.

When the tree fell, Animal Control Officer Michele Kellough ran into the kennel area to check the damage and found Murphy scared and standing in about 18 inches of ceiling debris, branches poking through around him. Above him, the rain was pouring in.

"I was inside doing paperwork and I thought a truck hit the building," Kellough said.

The crash left the animal control building with a heavily damaged roof, no power and an evacuation order. There were five dogs and an adopted feral cat that lives at the office inside the building at the time.

The downed pine tree was one of numerous trees and limbs that fell across the region as strong winds and rain swept through the area with a cold front. There were scattered reports all day of wires falling onto power lines and roads closed by fallen trees, including Iron Street in Ledyard and Washington Street in Norwich.

The five dogs from the Norwich pound, including a Chihuahua and Pomeranian being cared for while the owner is in the hospital, are now "safe, warm and dry" at the Norwichtown Pet Resort & Spa on Scotland Road, Kellough said. Space at the Norwichtown Pet Resort is at a premium this week, because many families are on vacation during school break. The kennel had only four small-dog kennels available for the large pound dogs. The cat was taken home by Assistant Animal Control Officer Donna Gremminger.

In addition to Murphy, two pit bulls — a 5-year-old female and her 1-year-old female puppy — were at the pound when the tree fell. Murphy is available for adoption, while the pit bulls are being held on a contentious bite case, Kellough said.

A tree work contractor was cutting the pine tree away from the roof of the pound early Tuesday evening and Norwich Public Works Director Barry Ellison said a full assessment of the damage would be done Wednesday. The goal, he said, would be to perform some temporary repairs and allow the animals back in while work on permanent repairs gets underway.

That may take some time, however, considering the tree left the roof with structural damage and also damaged the heating and ventilation system, kennel fence and water and electrical lines.

After filing the insurance claim, it could be weeks before repairs are completed, he said. The pound opened at its current location, the former park office in Mohegan Park Center, in 2010 and was built at a cost of $600,000.

c.bessette@theday.com

Staff Writer Greg Smith contributed to this report.

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