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Investigation into Suffield dog attack continues

Investigation into Suffield dog attack continues

SUFFIELD — Though police expected to wrap up by today their investigation into an attack by a pit bull pointer mix that resulted in the death of Janet D’Aleo, 95, of Enfield, the probe is taking longer than expected because officers are continuing to look into the dog’s history, an official said this week.

Capt. James Canon said a report on the outcome of the investigation should be completed by Wednesday.

Canon said a decision on whether to euthanize the dog — which is owned by Annie Hornish, the state director of the Humane Society and a former state representative — will be made within the next day or so. Meanwhile, the dog remains quarantined at the River Valley Animal Center in town.

Once a decision has been made, Canon said, Hornish would have up to 14 days to appeal it. If she decides to, he said, a judge would then have to decide the matter.

The delay in completing the investigation by the end of this week, Canon said, is because of the Police Department’s “due diligence” when it comes to thoroughly investigating the history of the dog.

“Part of the inquiry we’re making is in respect to the animal’s history. As we’ve begun to get that it’s led to a few more questions or people that need to be spoken with, so it’s a matter of tracking them down and having those conversations,” Canon said of the dog’s previous owners.

As Canon explained, Hornish has owned the 3-year-old dog for only a short period of time — between six to eight months — so the department still has the dog’s first three years of history to track down.

The attack happened at Hornish’s home at 584 Thrall Road on the afternoon of Nov. 6 when D’Aleo, accompanied by a home health aide, was visiting her longtime friend, Hornish’s mother, Agnes Wosko, 93, police said. Hornish was not home at the time.

Chief Richard Brown said Monday that D’Aleo was alive and attempting to communicate after the attack, but died later at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield after suffering massive bite wounds.

While the chief medical examiner’s office in Holyoke, Massachusetts, hasn’t completed an official report yet, Brown said it was contact with the dog that led to D’Aleo’s death and that the bite wounds alone were sufficient to have killed her.

Hornish said in an interview last Friday that she believes it was likely D’Aleo died as a result of falling during the incident and in another interview on Monday said she was still waiting for the medical examiner to release the cause of death.

Using the Ian Dunbar Bite Assessment Scale that ranks dog bites according to severity, police determined that the attack on D’Aleo rated a 6 out of 6, meaning it was the most severe, according to the chief.

A level 6 means a victim has died and the dog “is extremely dangerous and mutilates. The dog is simply not safe around people,” the assessment states.

Euthanasia is recommended for level 6 because the quality of life is so poor for dogs that have to live out their lives in solitary confinement, according to the assessment.