The owner of a Connecticut dog boarding and training facility, now operating under a new name, is set to appear in court soon to face animal cruelty charges based on what investigators allegedly found after two dogs under his care “maimed and killed” a mini-schnauzer, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
Thomas Hunt Jr., 56, of Naugatuck, was charged with two counts of animal cruelty at his former Eagle K-9 Academy facility, 809 Carrington Road, Bethany, records show. He is scheduled to appear in New Haven Superior Court on August 12. Prosecutor Joseph Lamotta declined to comment because the case is pending.
The training center has been renamed, Perfection with Affection K-9 Academy at the same address. Thomas Hunt Sr. and another man are listed as the best members of the training team.
In addition to the criminal charges, state Animal Control inspections in the past year have cited alleged health and safety violations at Eagle K-9 Academy, now marked “TEMP. CLOSED” on their website.
Hunt’s attorney, Sally Pruitt, did not return multiple calls for comment.
Hunt said in a text message: “I was instructed not to comment.”
Hunt’s criminal charges stem from the alleged extreme weight loss of two Cane Corso dogs that were housed at his facility for several months, the warrant affidavit says. The Cane Corso breed is an Italian breed of mastiff that is generally kept as a companion or guard dog.
The condition of the dogs, one called “emaciated” in the order affidavit, came to the attention of Woodbridge Animal Control after Hunt reported by phone on April 8 that Cane Corsos had “mauled and killed” the mini schnauzer. .
Hunt told animal control the attack occurred after an employee “failed to secure a latch,” according to an order written by animal control officer Karen Lombardi.
The dogs that attacked, one male and one female, were taken to the Woodbridge animal control facility for quarantine and were found to be “extremely underweight,” the order affidavit says.
Lombardi wrote in the warrant affidavit: “It is through my training and experience that I know it is a training tactic to deprive the animal of food in an attempt to use food as a reward.”
The order documents weight concerns in detail.
Moose, a 4-year-old, 11-month-old male, weighed 87.3 pounds, while veterinary paperwork showed Moose weighed 130 pounds about two months earlier, according to the court order.
The other Cane Corso, a female, Nova, aged three years and nine months, weighed in at 88.7 pounds. and records from two months earlier showed she weighed 98 pounds, according to the order.
The order states that on April 12, Lombardi, along with state animal control officer Charles DellaRocco, interviewed the dogs’ owner, a North Haven man, who told them he had left the dogs at a shelter because I was going through a divorce and needed a place. for them as they go through the transition.
The owner told animal control officers that he left the dogs in December 2021 in “good health” but they now looked “malnourished and skin and bone thin,” the order says.
On April 12, the dogs were taken to the Milford Animal Clinic and examined by a veterinarian who confirmed the dogs were underweight, with Moose’s “spine and ribs” prominent on visual examination, according to the affidavit. of the order.
Hunt told investigators he was feeding the dogs “six cups of food a day,” the order says.
When a state inspection noted in January 2022 that the dogs’ rabies vaccinations were out of date, Hunt is quoted in the order as saying, “I probably should have taken them to the vet.”
Shortly after the investigation was conducted, the facility on Carrington Road was renamed the Perfection with Affection K-9 Academy.
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The Perfection with Affection website states their tagline as “Strengthen the bond of trust between dogs and their people.”
Eagle K-9’s catchphrase was “Perfection with Affection”.
The Perfection with Affection “team” is listed as Thomas Hunt Sr., “a certified teacher trainer and graduate of the US K9 Academy some 30 years ago,” as well as the defendant, Thomas Hunt Jr., described as “a Certified Master Trainer and began training dogs at a young age. He graduated from the US K9 Academy. Thomas Jr. also served four years in the United States Marine Corps.”
A message from Thomas Jr. on the website reads: “When you say a dog is man’s best friend, that is our ultimate goal… Watching the transformation from a wild pup to a happy, well-mannered dog is amazing and what follows we go here.
In the past year, Eagle K-9 Academy received at least one warning from the State Department’s Animal Control Unit after an inspection and the inspections turned up suspected violations, according to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. .
In many cases, the alleged violations were related to safety and sanitation.
Alleged violations have included: feces and urine in hallways and kennels, a puddle of urine in the hallway, no mechanical ventilation, inadequate drainage, old fences with no roof, extremely dirty fan and roof, lack of repairs that could cause injury, control of mice. feces near the kitchen sink. One report indicated that five of nine dogs were not up to date on rabies shots and eight of nine were not licensed.