State Appellate Court dismisses Norwich pit bull owner's appeal

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A state Appellate Court judge has dismissed an appeal by the Norwich owner of two pit bulls that have been held at the Norwich dog pound on a dog destruction order since October 2013, but the ruling might not be the final court action in the lengthy appeal.

State Appellate Court Judge Sheila Huddleston on Wednesday issued a dismissal order after dog owner Sheri Speer failed to file a complete brief by the court-imposed deadline Tuesday. Speer filed an electronic version of the complaint but not the required 10 written hard copies, a court official said Thursday.

Speer has 10 calendar days to file a motion to reconsider the dismissal.

Police say the dogs were involved in an attack on a woman and her three grandchildren. The two female pit bulls — Skyler, now 11 years old, and Skyler's daughter Dolly, now 7 — have remained at the Norwich dog pound under a limited contact order, with the city paying for their care.

Norwich police Chief Patrick Daley declined to comment on the appeal dismissal Thursday, but said the dogs are "well cared for."

The Appellate Court in September had dismissed Speer’s appeal after she failed to file required documents at the time, but Huddleston agreed to reconsider the case upon Speer’s request. Earlier this month, Speer sought an extension of the Jan. 21 deadline to file the brief, but Huddleston denied the extension.

The attack occurred on Oct. 8, 2013, in front of Speer’s home at 151 Talman St. Lisa Hall was walking her three young grandchildren from their home at 123 Talman St., a rental house owned by Speer, to the Bishop School playground.

One dog knocked over the baby stroller carrying then 9-month-old Marquice Downing and bit the baby’s forehead. The baby’s sister, Marlena Downing, then almost 5, was hailed as a heroine after she stuck her arm out to protect the baby. The dog grabbed her arm, tearing flesh, breaking her arm and inflicting bite wounds down to the bone, according to court records. Marlena Downing needed screws to repair her broken arm and spent four days in the hospital.

A passer-by stopped his car, grabbed a stick and struck the dog, while Hall kicked the dog and was bitten on her leg.

During the attack, Marlena’s twin sister, Audrena, ran screaming toward her home. The second dog chased her. The girl banged on the door of another tenant, and the woman let the child enter. The girl hid behind a couch until police arrived.

Police could not discern which of the dogs of similar appearance attacked the children and which chased the child down the street.

The city placed destruction orders on both dogs, and the state Department of Agriculture upheld the destruction order. Speer’s court appeals are against the Department of Agriculture’s ruling. A Superior Court judge denied her appeal, and she appealed that to the state Appellate Court.

c.bessette@theday.com

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