At least 10 dogs “deemed no longer viable” were shot and killed by workers at a facility that trained canines for the military and police, authorities in Connecticut say.
The facility, Black Rock Canines in Naugatuck, is owned by a sworn police officer of a town roughly 40 miles away, the Naugatuck Police Department said in a May 3 news release. Several dogs and puppies “of all ages and breeds” are believed to have been injured and abused there, and the dogs killed were buried at the property.
Police learned of possible animal cruelty occurring at the facility — as well as allegations of illegal military-grade explosives and firearms being stored there — in late April after the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, state police and other authorities notified the Naugatuck department of a joint investigation .
The owner, David Rivera Jr., a New Canaan police officer, and Daniel Luna, the facility’s general manager, were arrested on several counts after turning themselves in to Naugatuck police on May 2, the news release said.
A day later, 31 dogs were seized from the facility and placed in a shelter to receive care, police said.
Rivera has since been placed on leave and is “prohibited from serving as an active-duty New Canaan police officer,” New Canaan Chief of Police Leon Krolikowski told McClatchy News in a statement. He “will remain on leave pending adjudication of any criminal cases and the completion of an internal investigation.”
Rivera was a K-9 handler for the department, CT Insider reported.
Meanwhile, Luna is accused of abusing “numerous puppies and dogs,” and witnesses told investigators that he had left some puppies “exposed to harsh weather elements,” resulting in their deaths, according to Naugatuck police.
At the facility, police found four buried dogs that Luna is accused of shooting and killing, an arrest warrant revealed, the Hartford Courant reported. He told workers he considered them “useless.”
“As a police agency with three successful working canines that serve our community to their highest capability, we are appalled at the treatment that other dogs of the same caliber were given while under the care of Black Rock Canines,” Naugatuck police said in the news release.
Additionally, witnesses told investigators that military explosives were being stored at Black Rock Canines and that Rivera had told employees “on numerous occasions” to transport them back and forth from the facility to the Naugatuck Event Center for “training purposes,” according to police.
At the center, the dogs were trained to sniff the weapons, according to CT Insider.
The explosives “were allegedly stored in Tupperware containers and handled by inexperienced employees who lacked the training or the necessary permits to do so,” police said.
Meanwhile, Rivera’s father, David Rivera Sr., was also arrested as part of the investigation after police said he threatened a current and former facility employee with a knife on April 29. He was released after posting $25,000 bond and will appear in court May 11 .
Rivera Jr. posted a $150,000 bond and will appear in court on May 18, police said. Luna appeared in court on May 3 and will appear in court again on June 29, according to police and the Hartford Courant.
While the training facility’s website appeared to be down as of May 5, a description of the site still showed up in a Google search, saying “our dogs are farm raised in the USA and treated humanely, with full accountability and transparency from birth.”
In an update on the dogs that were seized, Naugatuck police said on May 4 that they “will NOT be available for fostering or adoption any time in the near future, due to the fact that they are considered evidence in this investigation.”
Naugatuck is roughly 33 miles southwest of Hartford.