Norwich dog owner asks court to reopen appeal of destruction order

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Norwich — The owner of two pit bulls held for years at the Norwich pound under a dog destruction order is asking the state Appellate Court to reopen her appeal, dismissed in September after she failed to meet a court deadline for filing documents.

Sheri Speer, owner of two pit bulls accused by Norwich police of attacking a grandmother and three young children walking on Talman Street in 2013, had failed to meet a Sept. 19 deadline to file a transcript of the New Britain Superior Court proceedings in which a judge had ruled against her appeal of the destruction order, or acknowledgement that the transcript was being processed.

The Appellate Court on Sept. 20 had dismissed her case, saying her appeal “has not been pursued with proper diligence.”

In her request to reopen the case, Speer argued that she “diligently attempted to” obtain the transcript and the court reporter’s acknowledgment and that the court reporter had not completed the acknowledgment until Sept. 26, well past the Appellate Court’s imposed deadline. She attached both the acknowledgement and the transcription to her request to reopen the case.

“The Appellant made every good faith effort to obtain the transcript and the completed court reporter's acknowledgement form,” Speer wrote in her request. “Both have finally been obtained and are attached.”

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 throughout the nearly six-year impoundment.

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 inflicted a minor bite wound on 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 latched onto her arm, shaking it, 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 Downing, 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 dog, as they were similar in appearance, attacked the victims and which one chased Audrena. The city took both dogs into custody, and Animal Control Officer Michele Lombardi issued a destruction order on both.

Speer initially appealed the city’s destruction order to the state Department of Agriculture, which conducted a hearing and upheld the city’s order. Speer appealed to Superior Court, which initially dismissed her case, but she prevailed in an appeal to Appellate Court to reverse the dismissal. New Britain Superior Court Judge Sheila A. Huddleston then upheld the state Department of Agriculture ruling and Speer appealed again to Appellate Court.

c.bessette@theday.com

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