Two years after incidents, East Lyme dog receives less controversial muzzle order

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East Lyme — Two years, four attorneys and one state agency later, a bulldog accused of an April 2017 attack has landed a less controversial muzzle order.

Resident Steven Frischling’s saga began April 6, 2017, when police said his black-and-white American bulldog, Sally Cow, escaped 5 Wildwood Drive and attacked a woman and another dog near 26 Old Black Point Road.

After the attack, which left the woman with cuts and a shoulder injury and the dog without a chunk of skin near its neck, police charged Frischling with allowing a dog to roam and owning a nuisance dog.

Police returned to Wildwood Drive on May 3, 2017, when they said Sally got loose again and scratched a dog whose owner was walking it past the home. Police in that case cited Frischling’s ex-partner, Susannah Seefeldt, with owning a nuisance dog. They also issued a muzzle order for Sally.

Frischling long has contended the May 2017 incident didn't happen as reported and that Sally wasn't involved in the April 2017 incident. He garnered support in a Facebook post that questioned why the town would muzzle a dog that comforts his autistic son.

In June 2017, however, then-91-year-old Anne Rudge-Pinkham, the owner of the dog attacked in April 2017, and Tammie Schenking, the dog walker, filed a civil suit against Frischling seeking $15,000 in damages for injuries to Schenking and the dog.

They later added Seefeldt to the suit, which went back and forth for months as the parties awaited medical records from Schenking.

Speaking by phone Friday, Frischling’s attorney, Sergio Deganis, said Schenking had “some extensive prior medical conditions.” The defense requested her records so it could determine which injuries reasonably may have resulted from the April 2017 attack.

Attorney Eric Garofano said his clients — Rudge-Pinkham, who dropped out of the case in April, and Schenking, who withdrew her action last week — each received settlements in the case, which is now closed. Garofano wouldn’t disclose the amounts.

Because Seefeldt legally owns Sally, Deganis said, Seefeldt’s homeowner’s insurance will cover the cost of the settlements.

Erik Roberts, who represented Seefeldt on behalf of Liberty Mutual, said he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media. Reached by email, a media contact listed for Liberty Mutual said the company doesn’t comment on litigation.

Neither Deganis nor Garofano objected to the settlements. “I think it was a fair resolution of the case,” Garofano said.

Reached by email Friday, town police Chief Mike Finkelstein said Sally’s initial muzzle order, which required the dog to be muzzled whenever it was outside, was revised after an April hearing with the state Department of Agriculture, whose Animal Control Division investigates property damage, injury and nuisance caused by dogs.

Finkelstein didn’t have a copy of the new agreement, which he said was sent to Seefeldt after the hearing.

Frischling said the new muzzle order, crafted with advice from East Lyme’s attorney, requires Sally to be muzzled only on public property in East Lyme. Sally now faces no restrictions on private property or anywhere outside East Lyme.

Frustrated by the two years spent fighting the civil case and the muzzle order — and the impact each had on his child — Frischling said he didn’t want more media coverage and declined to comment further.

l.boyle@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version corrects information about the dog's initial muzzle order.

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