11 dogs abandoned throughout southeastern Connecticut

In early September, 11 Chihuahua mix dogs were abandoned throughout southeastern Connecticut. They were found in Stonington, Preston, Groton and Norwich.

All of the dogs were in reusable, cloth Walmart shopping bags left on the side of the road in residential areas. Some had dog food with them in the bottom of the bag, others did not, Stonington police said.

Every single dog survived, and they are either being kept by animal control, in foster care or are permanently adopted.

Since the most dogs — five — were left in Stonington, the town's police department is leading the investigation. The department's Capt. Todd Olson said authorities are working with a few leads in trying to find the person or persons who abandoned the dogs.

"It's important for people to be aware that if an animal becomes too much of a burden, this is not the way to fix the problem," Olson said. "Go to the local humane society or animal control, and they can help you."

Preston Animal Control Officer Patti Daniels said three dogs were left in Preston. Olson said one dog was left in Groton and two were left in Norwich.

"What happened here is unfortunate, and we're taking the case very seriously," Olson added.

An Oct. 30 post from the Stonington Police Department Facebook page said the suspect's vehicle is believed to be a black car, possibly an Acura, and asked that anyone with information about the dogs contact Officer Kristy Murray at (860) 599-7547.

All five dogs in Stonington have been adopted. Groton Animal Control confirmed that its one abandoned dog was adopted into a home.

The stranded canines have drawn the ire of Connecticut group Desmond's Army, a nonprofit that, through the efforts of volunteers, works to raise public awareness of animal abuse laws and the link between animal abuse and other violent acts. One such volunteer is former Democratic state Rep. Diana Urban.

Urban has made fighting animal abuse her pet project since she left office. To her chagrin, her son calls it her "final act."

Urban said animal control offices in separate municipalities connected the cases once they communicated and realized all the dogs were in Walmart bags.

"Because it's different towns, the opportunity for the animal control officers to talk to each other is limited, but they started talking to each other going, 'Wait a second, I had something similar to that,'" Urban said. "My concern about it is, if somebody does that, it worries me about what they're gonna do next, or whether they have children, or whether they interact with children. If you're willing to do that, what other things might you be willing to do?"

Desmond's Army President Robin Cannamela said the group is in the process of setting up a $1,000 reward pledge for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible. She speculated on why someone would do something like this.

"I don't know if it's laziness, if there's something more nefarious going on, if it's a bad breeding situation with other neglected dogs; perhaps they just wanted to get rid of them," Cannamela said. "There's no other explanation; it just boggles my mind. I can't answer it because none of us are of that mindset, and it just becomes infuriating."

Karen Schortman of East Windsor took in one of the dogs, Molly, who is about 2 years old. Schortman often fosters dogs for a rescue group in East Windsor called Brooke's Angels — Molly is the first "foster fail" she's ever had, meaning she brought her home for good.

"We lost our Newfoundland in July, and we were looking for a smaller dog anyway," Schortman said. "When she came to us, she was very unstable. Her first few days, she was just shell shocked. I was syringe watering her every few hours because she wasn't drinking, she wouldn't eat, she was trembling like crazy."

Christine Lamb is the founder and president of Connecticut Animal House, a nonprofit located in Waterford dedicated to ending the euthanasia of adoptable dogs in Connecticut pounds, according to its website. She said the group took in the two Norwich dogs from animal control shortly after they were picked up.

Sheldon and Squiggy were covered in feces and urine. Lamb said it was clear they'd been locked in a kennel.

Squiggy was in danger of being euthanized because of a 3-inch-deep wound that looked like it was caused by being impaled on something. The vet advised Norwich Animal Control to euthanize him because of the chance of bacteria. Lamb said CT Animal House brought him to Ocean State Veterinary Specialists, where he received exploratory surgery. He's still in recovery.

Like Molly, both dogs are less than 2 years old, and both were "petrified" of people, according to Lamb. Sheldon has been adopted, and Lamb is confident Squiggy soon will be once he's strong enough.

Now, Molly is eating and drinking by herself, and she doesn't always scurry away when Schortman comes close.

"She's actually letting us pet her now," Schortman said.

s.spinella@theday.com

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