WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. – A couple is grieving the loss of their beloved dog Peanut after another dog allegedly attacked and killed him at a boarding facility.
But the circumstances surrounding Peanut's death at a Windsor Locks dog day care are the subject of a police investigation.
Ana and Arturo Rodriguez say Peanut was like a child to them.
"I don’t have any children of my own so I’ve invested 9 years of emotions in Peanut. He was my world," Arturo Rodriguez said.
The couple told WTIC they had to fly out of state to take care of a sick loved one and decided to board Peanut at the Flying Fur near Bradley Airport. They called to check on Peanut during their trip and said they were told he was fine and getting along with the other dogs. But when they arrived home July 20th, Peanut was dead.
According to a statement by Flying Fur owner Sandy Brengi, another dog that "had previously been playing nicely" with Peanut turned on the pint-sized pooch and killed the Rodriguezes' pet.
"There’s just nothing but unanswered questions," Ana Rodriguez said.
The Flying Fur declined an on-camera interview.
"Now that he’s gone, it’s devastating," said Arturo. They posted their story on Facebook where it’s been shared nearly 800 times. They never saw Peanut's body, and say the Flying Fur only handed them an urn with his ashes.
"I just want some closure," said Arturo. "I want to make sure this is actually my dog."
WTIC obtained a handwritten letter from the attending veterinarian. But the date says Peanut was cremated July 17th, as does the cremation certificate. That’s three days before the Rodriguez family arrived home with no word of any incident.
Flying Fur owner Sandy Brengi said in a statement that due to stress the family was going through on their trip, she thought the news of Peanut's death would, “add stress to an already very emotional situation."
"It was offensive that they cremated him and did not tell us about the incident," Ana Rodriguez said. "It leads us to believe that there were underlying reasons why they weren’t telling (us) about it."
The letter from the vet also described Peanut, a male Chihuahua, as a female Jack Russell terrier.
“In no way was this done to cover up any evidence of wrongdoing," Brengi told WTIC.
The attack apparently happened in the Flying Fur's outside play area. Staff admit the dogs were left unattended for a time while their indoor space was being cleaned.
Helpless and heartbroken with only Peanut’s collar, the urn of ashes and his dog tags, the Rodriguez family is turning to their anger into action. They are advocating to change the Connecticut statute which says, “all dogs are deemed to be personal property.”
The statute prevents owners from being compensated for pain and suffering.
"The laws need to change so no one ever has to go through this again and if it does happen, that they have proper legal recourse," said Ana.
The allegations against the Flying Fur are being investigated by the Windsor Locks Police Department, animal control and the state Department of Agriculture. Lt. Paul Cherniack of the Windsor Locks Police Department said, "If something falls under the statute of cruelty to animals we have to look at that and see if these circumstances do apply in the this case. We are keeping everything open."
The Flying Fur said they’ve adjusted their existing procedures, but didn’t elaborate specifically how. The Flying Fur has been in business since 2012 caring for nearly 60,000 pets.
Statement from the Flying Fur owner Sandy Brengi:
On behalf of the entire Flying Fur family, I would like to address the recent accident that occurred at our facility.
The accident that occurred was not the result of gross negligence, but an isolated accident between 2 boarding/daycare guests, that had previously been playing nicely together. I would also like to clarify the confusion regarding the breed of the other dog involved.
This dog was not a pit bull, as has been reported, but rather a mixed breed dog, that weighs between 25 – 30 lbs. We group our daycare guests together by size and temperament and at no time was there a dog larger than 30lbs in this play group. Additionally, there were no more than 8-10 dogs in that weight group the day this accident occurred.
At my direction, my daughter Alexa took the injured pet to the hospital immediately. He was not presented to the attending veterinarian as a stray dog or as property of The Flying Fur. In fact, his cremation certificate listed his full name. He sustained one fatal bite to the back of his neck and was in no way mauled by the other animal.
As principal owner, it was my decision not to contact his family as it was my understanding they were traveling out of town for personal matters. I thought the news would add stress to what was already a very emotional situation for them. It was also my decision to have him privately cremated and placed in a decorative urn.
That decision was based on my own choice of privately cremating some of my personal beloved pets. In no way was this done to cover-up any evidence of wrongdoing.
We would like to assure our community and our customers, that we are not taking this situation lightly, and we are truly sorry the accident occurred. Since the accident we have adjusted our existing procedures. We believe these steps will further insure the safety of the pets entrusted to us.
The Flying Fur has been in business since 2012. Since our opening, approximately 55,800 pets have passed through our business, and we have never experienced an accident such as this.
We are a proud and active member of the Windsor Locks community. We have deep ties to the town and the area. Windsor Locks has been my home for 30 years & my husband is a lifelong resident. We would like to thank all our loyal customers, family, and friends for their years of continued support of our family-owned business.