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Friday, Mar 31, 2006County: Middlesex
Defendant/Suspect: Lindsay DeCiccio
Case Updates: 2 update(s) available
The deaths of two Yorkshire terriers at a local dog salon have left the owner grieving and the young dog groomer who owns the facility distraught.
Police have asked the Middlesex County prosecutor to charge the owner of Petcare on East Main Street with cruelty to animals, but an investigator for the assistant state's attorney handling the case said they so far are unconvinced a crime has been committed. If prosecutors conclude there was no intent to harm the dogs, the matter could be left to civil court.
The owner of Daisy, 9, and Trooper, 2, the two 6- to 7-pound Yorkies who died on March 31 after apparently overheating in a cage dryer at the salon, said she will sue if law enforcement authorities do not act.
"The only motivation I have ... is that no other animal get hurt," said Kimberly Clark, 46. "These people are irresponsible and negligent."
She added: "I'm sure she didn't intend for them to cook in there and die."
The owner of the salon, Lindsay DeCiccio, 22, said she was devastated by the death of the two dogs. She said she has been grooming animals since she was 13 or 14, and that she goes out of her way to make sure things are done right at her shop. Her mother had been pet-sitting for the two Yorkies and the family knew them well, she said.
"It was an accident," she said. "You can try and prevent things from happening, making sure everybody's OK - you do everything right and unfortunately you can't prevent everything, you can't prevent the thing from malfunctioning."
She was reluctant to discuss details of the incident, because it is still under investigation, but she said the dryer may have failed to shut off when it became overheated.
"I wish that I could go over there and sit and talk with [the dog's owners] and tell them that everything is going to be OK," said DeCiccio, who broke down on the phone while talking about the incident. "It rips my heart out."
Dogs can take a half hour or more to dry, and groomers use several types of blow dryers. With cage dryers, dogs are placed in a cage or crate and typically the dryer is hung onto the container.
Some dryers come with timers, and some are heated, but DeCiccio said the dryer in this case was unheated. She declined to specify the make.
The Clinton case mirrors incidents in Brooklyn, N.Y., last month and another in Florida in 2005 in which small dogs died after being overheated by dryers.
Dr. Steve Zawistowski, executive vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said though he has heard of similar cases involving dryers, he did not consider the incidents part of a trend, but more "a bad mix of circumstances." He said dryers are a "good, useful tool for groomers."
Dogs are very sensitive to heat, and how they are affected by a dryer depends on the dog's health and the set-up of the cage, Zawistowski said. "The primary question really comes down to supervision."
Clark, who works for Schick Wilkinson in Milford, moved to Clinton from Arkansas about a year ago and signed up Kathy Walker, DeCiccio's mother, as a pet sitter for her Yorkies, Daisy and Trooper. She began taking her dogs to Petcare for grooming.
"I knew they were trying to get the business started," she said. "I tried to support them. The worst I ever thought I was going to get was a bad haircut."
On her way back from a business trip to New York on March 31, she said she got a call from Walker telling her about the accident, that Daisy had died, and that they had taken Trooper to the Shoreline Animal Hospital in Clinton. Trooper had to be put down the next day, Clark said.
Veterinarian Dr. Shale Scianti of Shoreline declined to comment on the case.
Clark eventually gave a statement to local police, who have applied to the state's attorney's office in Middletown for an arrest warrant.
The warrant "is still being reviewed by the prosecutor, because we're not sure there was a crime," Richard Busky, an investigator with the state's attorney's office in Middletown, said this week. "It may be just negligence, in which case it would be civil." With many other cases pending, Busky added: "Unfortunately it's not on the high priority list."
The delay has frustrated Clark.
"I know it's not high on their list because it's an animal," Clark said. "But they're also leaving a lot of people vulnerable in our area because they're not taking action against this."
Donna Cavanaugh, Clinton's animal control officer, said she has received no other complaints about Petcare.
DeCiccio said she was so upset she closed her shop for four and a half weeks. "This is not just a business," she said. "This is my life."
She said she has been talking to some of her clients about the incident to try to dampen rumors about what happened.
"It's sad, it's extremely sad," she said. "I wish ... that we could have seen the accident before it happened and done something differently. We are so careful. ... Everything we do is standard, like any other shop."
|A judge granted special probation Wednesday to a Clinton dog groomer involving the deaths of two dogs. Lindsay DeCiccio, 22, faced two counts of animal cruelty after her arrest in August in the deaths of two Yorkshire terriers.|
DeCiccio, owner of Total Pet Care, has received accelerated rehabilitation, a program for first-time offenders that, if completed successfully, could erase any criminal record.
The owners of the terriers objected to the special probation. Police say the terriers died of burns and heatstroke after being left too long under dryers in their cages.
As part of DeCiccio's probation, the judge ordered her to pay veterinarian bills that were not covered by the insurance company and not to work with animals or in the business of dog grooming.
|Source: WNBC - Nov 9, 2006|
Update posted on Nov 9, 2006 - 6:39AM
|A Clinton dog groomer's failure to take basic safety measures caused two Yorkshire terriers to die of burns and heatstroke after remaining under dryers in their cages for up to 35 minutes, according to a warrant charging the groomer with two counts of animal cruelty.|
Lindsay DeCiccio, 22, owner of the business identified in court papers as Total Pet Care, was arraigned Friday and briefly jailed before her family posted $25,000 bail. She is due back in court Monday on the two misdemeanor counts.
She has said in previous interviews that she was devastated by the deaths in April of Daisy and Trooper, owned by Kimberly Clark and Russell Neilan, and maintained that the dryers must have malfunctioned.
But Clinton Officer Joseph E. O'Brien's seven-page arrest affidavit portrays a harried business owner who had complained about being over-booked, and who used dryers that were poorly maintained. The warrant asserts that DeCiccio routinely dried dogs after their shampoos in a poorly ventilated room with the door closed. A state animal control officer who viewed the set-up after the deaths of the Yorkies noted that once out of the drying room there was no way to monitor the dogs as they sat in cages with the dryers attached, the warrant states.
"Proper care is impossible with the set-up Total Pet Care employs. There is a solid wall dividing the drying room from the grooming room with only one door," O'Brien writes in the warrant affidavit.
The veterinarian who tried to save Trooper remarked that the dog had the worst case of heat stroke she'd ever seen, the warrant states.
An electrical engineer who tested the dryers following the deaths found that while they were in poor shape - motors clogged with pet hair, frayed wires - they still worked.
"The temperatures recorded were not excessive and were ... fairly similar to a standard hair dryer," states a report for Clinton police by Frank Watkinson of Spectrum Engineering in Cheshire.
The dryers would not have generated a dangerous level of heat "unless grossly misused," Watkinson reported, according to the warrant.
Assistant Public Defender Chris James, who represented DeCiccio during her initial court appearance Friday, said the $25,000 bail - reduced from $75,000 - was excessive, and said the deaths were an accident.
DeCiccio first told investigators that she had left the Yorkies to dry for 25 minutes. Later, she upped the estimate to 35 minutes, the warrant states.
"`When I went back there I knew it felt warm, and I grabbed Trooper as fast as I could,"' the warrant quotes her saying, adding Daisy was already dead.
O'Brien interviewed two other dog groomers. They reported using hand-held dryers for Yorkshire terriers, and said six to eight minutes was sufficient drying time for the small, fine-haired breed, the warrant states. The groomers told the officer that they used cage dryers for larger dogs with longer fur.
"The deaths were caused by DeCiccio's failure to monitor and properly care for the dogs, which were left ... unattended and locked in a cage, out of sight in a room with hot air blowing on them," O'Brien concludes in the warrant affidavit.
As late as July 21, an investigator with the Middlesex state's attorney's office said it still wasn't clear whether the dogs' deaths were the result of an intentional act, or a case of civil negligence.
|Source: Hartford Courant - Aug 19, 2006|
Update posted on Aug 19, 2006 - 11:32AM
- Hartford Courant - July 22, 2006
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