After second attack, Catanzaros’ dog ordered put down

After second attack, Catanzaros’ dog ordered put down

NORTH PROVIDENCE – The family dog of the well-known Catanzaro family has been declared vicious and ordered to be euthanized after it attacked a second neighborhood dog and badly injured it.

The attacking dog, co-owned by Madisson Catanzaro, daughter of former Fire Chief Steven Catanzaro and former mayoral candidate and Town Council President Kristen Catanzaro, had been alleged to have behaved in a vicious or terrorizing manner on April 26 after it broke through a fence at 6 Gardner Ave. that hadn’t been properly secured and attacked another dog in the yard behind at 11 Observatory Ave., severely injuring it.

The panel that decided the dog’s fate on May 13 was made up of Special Agent Earl Newman, of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, as chairman, Lt. Michael Tavarozzi, of the North Providence Police Department, and Animal Control Officer Robert Salisbury, of the Smithfield Police Department.

Paul Cantor, attorney for the Catanzaros, said the family was not contesting that the dog, a pit bull terrier named Lucy, should be declared vicious, and didn’t want it at their property any longer.

The second attack came while several restrictions were already in place from a prior attack, including micro-chipping, placement of warning signs, notification of the police if the dog is loose or off the owner’s property, and a requirement for leashing and tying the dog while on or off the property.

The only options still available to the committee on the second offense were that they require that the owner obtain insurance, that they euthanize the dog, or that the animal be kept in a six-sided enclosure.

The April 26 attack was caught on tape by a camera at the Catanzaros’ home.

The owner of the previous dog attacked by Lucy, Courtney Tallarico, told the board that the Catanzaros had taken down the warning signs they were required to keep up. Marilyn Walaska, owner of the second dog attacked, testified that the dog didn’t have a collar at the time of the attack.

Walaska testified that there were “tons of puncture wounds,” many of them due to using its legs to try to keep the larger dog away from biting its neck. The dog was being monitored for possible surgery on its leg after sustaining a fracture and having its stitches out.

Walaska said she had only had her dog for four days at the time of the attack after rescuing her from the Warwick Animal Shelter. She said she was walking the dog in the yard to get it acquainted with its new surroundings, with a 6-foot chain-link fence she’d paid half for, and having a conversation with Steven Catanzaro when Lucy began headbutting the fence until it started to loosen and then scraped her way underneath the fence.

According to the hearing transcript, Walaska said she tried grabbing the attacking dog, which was “total muscle,” but struggled in part because it wasn’t wearing a collar. Steven Catanzaro was telling her to pull the back legs, she said, but she couldn’t get at them.

Asked by Tavarozzi where Steven Catanzaro was during this time, Walaska said he was behind the fence watching and never got involved. She said the reason he never jumped in was because he’d had a medical procedure.

“But this is an emergency trained first responder,” she said. “If he didn’t want to help me and saw me screaming and crying and begging, he could have gone and called 911 and somebody else could have come and helped me. But he didn’t. Nobody, nobody helped. If it wasn’t for Ilysa diagonally across the street and Chelsea next door, my dog would be dead. If you saw the amount of blood that was all over the place, you wouldn’t believe it.”

She said her own dog was screaming, and she herself just kept pulling at the pit bull’s neck and kicking it.

The victim dog was treated at Ferguson Animal Hospital in North Providence.

Cantor said no one could dispute that there was a prior violation or that the evidence here showed that there was a violation of the order. He said it wasn’t the dog’s fault, but was “in a sense the Catanzaros’ fault” that the fence wasn’t secure enough and the dog got out.

“We acknowledge that and are very sorry for what happened to the other dog,” he said.

Members of the panel said they were legally prohibited from discussing the circumstances surrounding the first vicious dog incident as they considered the second.

Cantor said representatives from Handsome Dan’s were willing to assess Lucy to see if she could be part of their program. He testified that the dog was great with people and was around children all the time. He said the Catanzaros would cover costs of keeping Lucy in custody until an assessment could be done, as proposed by Madisson.

Cantor also pointed out that the town website states an interest in finding a positive outcome for dogs under its control.

Tavarozzi noted that there was ample time for the dog to be removed from the offense and be controlled, and “it fell short of that.”

“In this case, knowing the history and seeing the video and understanding, as you probably are going to present, that there are some restrictions for Mr. Catanzaro, I still think there should have been some due care prior to this whole thing, knowing that he had a condition, to maybe be able to prevent this,” said Tavarozzi. “If he isn’t able to handle the dog, then the owner, I think that we are trying to describe the co-owner, should take more of an assertive effort to help out and take care of the dog.”

Madisson Catanzaro testified that she was at work as a social worker at the time of the incident. She said she’s 28 and is looking for her own house after moving out of this home. She said she moves in when her parents are away for “at least six months out of the year.”

Catanzaro said Lucy is “very much my dog,” despite the whole family taking care of her.

Tavarozzi responded that it seems that Lucy is too much for her parents to handle when she’s not there.

Cantor then responded that Lucy is not coming back to the property, but to the extent that the board thinks some fine is appropriate for Steve Catanzaro’s lack of action “in that minute or two,” that’s under the board’s discretion.

Newman noted that everyone wants the best outcome, but it’s also everyone’s responsibility to prove the best outcome for any other dogs that Lucy comes in contact with, and he doesn’t believe the board had the authority to allow for the transfer.

“We lose control in enforcement authority when this dog transfers ownership,” he said.

Even if the authority was there, he said, he wouldn’t be comfortable with that. He asked Madisson if she has any other options for the dog, and she said no, she doesn’t, but she wants to see her rehabilitated and give other families what the dog gave her family.

“I will take accountability to know that she did wrong, I’m not fighting that,” she said. “I’m fighting for her to get a chance to rehabilitate and be in a conducive environment where she can live.”

Newman responded that he thinks that should have been the concern after the first incident. He said this is only the second time in his thousands of dog hearings where someone has had to come back for a second hearing because the owner failed to properly secure the animal.

“I think any rehabilitation that was a concern or any evaluation by another agency should have been addressed after this first hearing,” he said. “And it would have resulted in a significant injury to another dog. And that’s our responsibility to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

This is entirely “a human problem,” not a dog one, said Newman, a failure by the owner to comply with restrictions put in place.

Walaska said transferring ownership would terrify her. This incident involved a trained first responder who never had control of the dog, she said, so how could one expect another person to do better?

Madisson Catanzaro then made a further case for Lucy to go to Handsome Dan’s, saying it would be similar to parole and not simply her giving the dog away to another family.

“But she’s not going to live at Handsome Dan’s for the rest of her life,” responded Newman, adding that the attempt would be to rehabilitate her and adopt her out to someone else. Responding to Catanzaro, he said there would be no guarantee that the dog wouldn’t attack again, saying it’s likely she would attack again.

North Providence Animal Control Officer Ernie Calandra noted that the fence was put up without notification to officers, and if that step had been taken, this incident likely would not have happened.

“The dog escaped, and by watching that video, from my years of experience, that was an unprovoked vicious attack on another animal,” he said. “And by trying to put that dog, transfer that dog to another agency and eventually into another home, it puts public safety and domestic animals at risk. And nobody cares about animals more than me.”

Walaska said she too loves animals, and that she fed Lucy cookies through the fence her whole life.

“To see that dog turn like that, to see what it’s capable of, blindsided me,” she said. “I didn’t even have enough time to run and I don’t know where I would run anyway.”

She said she was told by the Catanzaros that the dog was unjustly classified as vicious after the first incident, that the dog was just defending itself the first time, and that she had nothing to worry about.

“I had no way of knowing that they were being dishonest,” she said. “I never questioned it. They were neighbors, why would I not believe them?”

As the board deliberated further, Tavarozzi asked what Handsome Dan’s is, and Newman responded that the organization is a rescue for dogs, particularly “pit bull-type dogs,” providing training and other services.

Newman also emphasized that the dog would act differently when it’s around a trainer or behaviorist than it would around someone who doesn’t have that training or experience. He said the board’s hands are tied a bit in this situation, ultimately left only with the option to have the dog euthanized. The board unanimously voted for that option.

Comments

if the Catanzaros "found" that 17K yet????? Maybe they could help that woman with the medical bills for that poor dog.

In the US a pit bull kills a person an average of once every twelve days. They are weapons that can pull their own trigger.

RISCPA disaffiliated itself from Handsome Dan 3 years ago. Wonder why?

I wonder why the last two posts I’ve submitted here haven’t been posted...makes one think

Because they were inappropriate.

They were not inappropriate but nice to know you pick and choose on your personal whims or did someone else not want them printed?

"Uncivil or rude remarks or personal attacks will not be posted."

Ethan...you let the Dee Snider comment slip by....which had nothing to do with the Animal Shelter.... THAT comment was rude and personal against a great woman fighting for those without a voice...check yourself on this one

I would NEVER call Marilyn stupid....she is a loving and wonderful star that shines in this community....she nor her dog should EVER have suffered that horrible attack....this is about how you let a comment in that I considered to be disgusting about a shelter protester...I am glad you didn't post the name calling of Marilyn...in the future, though, please respect ALL people against rude comments

I had no idea who Dee Snider was. I thought the comment was someone thinking they recognized a local resident in the crowd.