A Year Of Change At Derby Animal Shelter

PHOTO: Jodie MozdzerIn the year after the Valley Indy published a report about a high kill rate at the Derby Animal Shelter, the city’s animal control operations have seen a dramatic change.

Since March 2011, the city has only euthanized two dogs — an 8 percent kill rate, compared to the 48 percent rate from the three previous years.

In that same time period, the Derby Police Department has also updated the job description for the animal control officer, revamped policies about how long animals can be held, and poured thousands of dollars into site improvements at the city pound, according to Chief Gerald Narowski.

And in April, another change will come.

Long-time Animal Control Officer Joe Klapcik will retire from his post after 18 years at the job.

Klapcik said he’s happy to leave the position on a bright note, after spending three years working under policies he says he disagreed with.

“Things are getting a lot better,” Klapcik said Tuesday. “A lot better than they ever were.”

“We don’t kill dogs every 16 days now, that’s for sure,” Klapcik said. “This chief is a totally different chief. We keep dogs, and we find them homes.”


Last year, the Valley Independent Sentinel reviewed animal control data submitted to the state for five lower Valley towns from July 2007 through December 2010.

The data showed that Derby was killing one out of every two dogs to come through its animal shelter, while most of the animals at other shelters were adopted.

FILEIn some cases, the dogs being killed in Derby were perfectly healthy. Several were young. Others were desirable, easy-to-adopt breeds such as Labradors and terriers.

The practice was a cost-saving measure, according to Derby Police Department administrators.

They said former police Chief Eugene Mascolo — who retired in October 2010 — instituted a policy requiring that dogs kept more than 16 days at the pound would be taken to a vet and euthanized.

Click here to read the story, published by the Valley Independent Sentinel on March 17, 2011.


Derby police officials interviewed last year said the policies were changing under the new leadership of Chief Gerald Narowski.

Narowski, on Tuesday, said the department has been working toward changes.

“We have a lot of work in front of us and are continuing to attempt to upgrade and enhance the program,” Narowski said in an e-mail.

The chief said some, but not all, of the progress made by the department over the last year includes:

  • Revamping the job description and duties of the animal control officer, including site visits to the green and Greenway for dog law compliance.
  • Professionalizing the position (decals / clothing identifiers etc)
  • Thousands of dollars for site improvements: septic/fencing/grounds
  • Enhancing placement efforts and holding animals as long as possible

Klapcik, who had initially declined to comment for the article last year, said on Tuesday that the changes have meant he can keep dogs at the shelter until he finds them a home.

“Now I have months and months and months to find an adoption,” Klapcik said. “It’s not 16 days. This guy, Chief Narowski, he’s a good man. A damn good man. That makes a big difference when you have a good chief to work for.”

The two dogs that were euthanized during the past year were a result of injuries, Klapcik said.

“One was in an accident, and got hit by a car bad,” Klapcik said. “The other one was in a fight. Everything else got adopted.”

Between March 2011 and December 2011, the most recent data available from the state, Derby’s dog pound took in 24 dogs. Only the two mentioned by Klapcik were euthanized.

Contrast that with the 2009-10 stats, when 31 dogs were taken in, and 11 were killed. In a three-year period from 2007 to 2010, Derby killed 43 of the 94 dogs it took in. That is 48 percent of all dogs the city took in.

PHOTO: Jodie MozdzerKlapcik said he was torn up about putting down that many dogs during the previous police administration.

“Every 16 days we were killing and killing,” Klapcik said. “I had to do what I was told. I had no say in the matter.”

“With this chief now, he’s a reasonable chief, a very nice man,” Klapcik said. “And he cares about animals.”


Klapcik said he will retire on April 30, about a month before he turns 63.

After 18 years with the department, he wanted to retire while he was young enough to enjoy it.

Narowski said the department was surprised by the retirement, and will start looking for a replacement. He said in another month or so, the department will have a better idea of how it will move forward.

“We are researching replacement options,” Narowski said in an e-mail, “and how we will provide services until a replacement is hired.”


posted by: Renee Sheckfee on March 27, 2012  9:59pm

My only request is that the citizens of Derby work together to volunteer at the shelter, maybe some sort of community program to exercise and work with these dogs. It would be fantastic if they had a fenced-in area to run around. There is a piece of land to the right of the building that might work and I do believe it’s owned by the city.

posted by: Linda R. Goodman-Mills on March 28, 2012  11:41am

I want to stop by and visit the shelter now. I hadn’t before because you never knew if it was open or not. Glad that the chief and Mr. Klapcik have worked together to make it a inviting place for potential adopters.

posted by: James Mascolo on March 28, 2012  2:20pm

Hmmm Renee, sounds like a nice place for a dog park..

posted by: Renee Sheckfee on March 28, 2012  2:28pm

Jim, don’t know if the space there could accommodate an adequately sized park or parking for it, as Coon Hollow Road is pretty narrow but for the shelter dogs, it’d be great!

posted by: Stan Muzyk on March 28, 2012  9:48pm

Great work, Chief Gerald Narowski and Officer Joseph Klapcik.  Good luck in your retirement Joe.

posted by: Stan Muzyk on March 29, 2012  12:28pm

James Mascolo:  I like you Jim, as you are always thinking about what’s best for the City of Derby.  However, I agree with Renee Sheckfee, that the animal shelter environ, is too small for a dog park.

I don’t know if it would be environmentally feasble, but the Derby landfill area, could accomodate a dog park and shouldn’t be any feces pollution problem at this location.
Finding another location for a Derby Dog Park is difficult in landlocked Derby—with already over one square mile of city and state parks located in a 5.6 square mile area.

posted by: James Mascolo on March 29, 2012  12:36pm

I have serious concerns about putting this on O’Sullivan’s Island, especially since I have been doing some research on dog feces and the high rate of contaminants it has in it. Hopefully there is some discussion Tuesday at the sub-committee meeting. I have some disturbing documentation to present to them concerning it. Specifically in regards to the enviromental aspect of the feces’ effect on its surroundings and people.

posted by: Stan Muzyk on March 29, 2012  5:08pm

James Mascolo: I can relate to your findings, Jim. A recent study at the University of Colorado spells out the pollutant effect of feces—that not only contaminates the soil, and water—but also pollutes from 10 to 50% of the air.

Aldermanic President Ronald Sill and Alderman Arthur Gherkens have both informed me that they OPPOSE a dog park at O’Sullivan’s Island.  I agree with Mr. Gherkens—who said he would not use city funds to install a dog park fence on the peninsula—as it it is located in a flood zone, and rising waters in the Naugatuck River, would wash the fence away.

With over one mile of existing city and state park land already existing in Derby’s landlocked 5.6 square miles—room for an acceptable dog park is difficult to locate.

I suggested taking a look at the Derby Landfill for a dog park, as it should not breach environmental concerns from dog feces pollution at that location.

A dog park at O’Sullivan’s Island appears to be “dead in it’s tracks.”  Let’s take a look at the Derby Landfill for a dog park.