Last year, when the Valley Independent Sentinel investigated the extraordinarily high kill rate at the Derby dog pound, animal advocates questioned the commitment and management skills of Joe Klapcik, the city’s animal control officer.
Those questions surfaced again Monday, after news spread that Klapcik abruptly quit his job Friday.
His departure not only left seven dogs and a rabbit in the lurch — one volunteer said the Coon Hollow Road dog pound left behind was “filthy and disgusting.”
“You would expect it from a neglect case from someone being brought up on animal cruelty charges, but not from a town shelter that is public, being funded by the town’s money,” said Naomi Ribeiro, of Karuna Bully Rescue, a New Haven-based dog rescue program helping the Derby animals.
Klapcik was the city’s animal control officer for 18 years. He was paid $26,000 a year for the part-time position.
Two messages seeking comment were left on his cell phone Monday.
‘It Smelled Foul’
Ribeiro was inside the Derby shelter Sunday, after a call went out for volunteers to help clean the small dog pound because Klapcik quit.
Ribeiro said there were piles of feces and urine that gave the appearance of the animals not being cared for “for at least a few days.”
“It smelled foul,” she said, adding that animals’ feet were “caked in poop,” and that there was mice feces “all over the place.”
Klapcik worked under the supervision of the Derby Police Department.
He was supposed to be retiring in less than a month, but he quit Friday over a dispute about the city-owned vehicle he used as animal control officer.
According to Derby police spokesman Lt. Salvatore Frosceno, Klapcik resigned after becoming “upset” that his city car was delivered to the wrong address after being serviced.
“The car was serviced as a matter of routine and delivered to his house,” Frosceno said. “Instead, Joe wanted it delivered to the pound . . . That happened and then he resigned.”
After Klapcik quit, Oxford animal control officers responded Friday to Coon Hollow Road.
Derby police had already been working with area animal control officers to get ready for the transition scheduled to happen with Klapcik’s impending retirement.
A person on the scene Friday took to social media, describing the inside of the Derby dog pound as “worse than awful.”
Cori Wlasuk, Oxford’s Assistant Animal Control Officer, said she and Oxford Animal Control Officer Sandy Merry were ready to help the animals after finding out about Klapcik’s departure.
Seven dogs and a rabbit were left at the shelter, Wlasuk said. One of the dogs is in the video below.
“It was a lot of work,” she said of the cleanup.
The rabbit has since been placed in a home. One of the dogs required treatment at a local veterinarian.
“They’re in good shape now,” Wlasuk said. “The place is well on its way to where it needs to be.”
Merry referred questions about the dog pound to Derby police.
Frosceno said Monday that he hadn’t heard details about the conditions at the shelter but that “everything’s been cleaned up and the animals are being taken care of.”
He said police Chief Gerald Narowski will review the circumstances of Klapcik’s departure and determine if more action should be taken.
“If it warrants an internal investigation, then so be it,” Frosceno said.
This is not the first time issues about the Derby dog pound have been brought to the attention of Derby city officials.
A Valley Indy investigation last year revealed the Derby dog pound had a 50-percent kill rate between 2007 and 2010. In some months, the kill rate for dogs was as high as 80 percent.
That rate dwarfed the kill rates of surrounding towns and was well above the state average.
In some cases, the dogs put down in Derby were perfectly healthy and were thought to be easily adoptable to area families.
At the time of the report, some of the blame was placed on past Derby police Chief Eugene Mascolo, who initiated the kill policy as a way to keep costs down.
Mascolo retired. A follow-up report by the Valley Indy published last month showed the pound’s kill rate was down dramatically.
Between March 2011 and March 2012, just two dogs were put down.
Officials also pointed out they spent “thousands of dollars” to improve the physical condition of the dog shelter.
At a Derby Aldermen meeting Jan. 26, Alderman Art Gerckens questioned police Chief Gerald Narowski about the conditions of the Coon Hollow facility, saying it “looked rundown,” according to meeting minutes.
The chief responded by saying the pound is an animal control facility, not a “poochie palace.”
The pound is not designed to hold animals for a long time, the chief said, adding that the city in 2011 put in plantings, new fences and a new septic system.
Both Narowski and Derby Mayor Anthony Staffieri did not return calls for comment Monday.
Frosceno said that the department hadn’t received any complaints about the pound recently and that Klapcik’s resignation came as a surprise.
Someone should have asked Derby resident Keanne Yanarella — because Klapcik told her about his plans two weeks ago.
Here is how it happened:
Yanarella spotted two pitbulls roaming loose on Cullens Hill Road April 3.
She called police, who told her there was nothing anyone could do since Klapcik was off the clock.
It was 4 p.m. on a Tuesday.
Yanarella reached out on Facebook — including the Valley Indy’s page — and asked for help for the two dogs.
The Facebook volunteers managed to catch the roaming dogs. Yanarella arranged for Klapcik to get the dogs the next day.
It wasn’t pleasant.
“The warden made it very clear to me today when he showed up that he is leaving in two weeks and he didn’t care what happened after that,” Yanarella wrote on the Valley Indy Facebook page April 4. “Even if there are dogs there at the time of his departure.”
Yanarella complained to both the Derby Mayor’s Office and to the police department.
There are plenty of dog lovers in Derby. Yanarella said Monday that city officials need to get citizens involved with the dog pound to make it a better place.
“Nobody’s got a game plan,” she said. “There’s no protocol in Derby. There should be something. I just don’t want to see these dogs neglected.”
How To Help
Frosceno, the Derby police spokesman, said residents with animal control emergencies should report them to police by dialing 911.
The shelter’s phone number, 203-736-1467, would be checked at least daily until a replacement for Klapcik is found.
“We have temporary coverage and the chief’s office is working on a more permanent solution,” he said.
Meanwhile, a new Facebook page for the Derby shelter was created Tuesday, with pictures and video of five dogs available for adoption.
The Facebook page had more than 100 ‘likes’ in 11 hours.
Among the first day’s posts:
“Time for CHANGE for the Derby Animal Shelter! Let’s hope that all the senseless euthanizations, months left confined to pens in filth and without exercise by the thousands of animals that passed through the building under Joe Klapcik’s ‘care’ did not suffer in vain.”
Wlasuk urged those who can help to bring donations — canned food, leashes, toys, treats — to the Oxford Animal Shelter any time between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. any night of the week.
The Oxford shelter can be reached at (203) 881-3653.