Hannah Kotler, Contributing Photographer

Just months after police closed one investigation of the New Haven Animal Shelter, the NHPD and state Department of Agriculture are looking into more evidence of animal illness at the shelter — igniting questions from activists and state legislators about how oversight of these facilities should be handled. 

Last February, New Haven police received an anonymous complaint of animal neglect which triggered an NHPD Internal Affairs investigation. Details of that investigation were first revealed in a Civilian Review Board meeting in September. The investigation was sparked after the Department of Agriculture received photos of “malnourished dogs” at the shelter and allegations that Animal Control Officer Joseph Manganiello had been classifying animals as “dead upon arrival” when these animals were dying after getting to the shelter. The investigation has further exposed flaws in Connecticut’s shelter system to activists and lawmakers.

Since then, about 20 animals have been relocated from the shelter. Animal Haven, the North Haven animal shelter, has pulled two dogs from the New Haven shelter, while Branford has taken in at least eight, according to Jo-Anne Basile, executive director at CT Votes for Animals, a Connecticut-based animal advocacy organization. Basile said the issues in the New Haven animal shelter stem from a lack of the financial support necessary to provide adequate facilities and ensure animal welfare.

“Communities have limited budgets,” said Basile. “They don’t want to spend it on animal shelters. It’s been one of the reasons why it’s so difficult to get their facilities to be safe and sanitary.”

In addition to a lack of fiscal resources, Basile also pointed to outdated regulations and poor official advocacy for change, which hinder improvements for municipal shelters. 

“The rules governing municipal shelters… date back to 1964,” Basile explained. “If a shelter has never done any updates, they are grandfathered. Those 1964 regulations, they’re pretty minimal and don’t really provide the type of protection that you would like to see for animals.”

The News obtained emails from state DOA Legislative Liaison Kayleigh Royston to the state General Assembly’s Animal Advocacy Caucus on Nov. 28, 2022, confirming that there are 53 shelters statewide that are subject only to the 1964 regulations. As Royston notes in the emails, the grandfather status applies to any shelters built prior to 1993. DOA Representative Rebecca Murphy told the News that she could not confirm the exact number of current grandfathered shelters to be 53. 

Basile said that the DOA has planned to revise these regulations since 2018 and 2019 without success. According to Basile, it took five years for DOA to set new regulations for private nonprofit shelters or commercial kennel facilities. The regulations which were passed in November emphasized sanitation; detailed expectations for ceilings, walls, temperature and ventilation; and outlined criteria for allocating space for dogs according to their weight.

The DOA has not implemented regulations for municipal shelters. In an email to the News, Murphy wrote that proposed revisions to the regulations are “under review” at the Office of Policy & Management.

Municipal shelters that are grandfathered are not subject to enforcement,” Murphy told the News. “The Connecticut Department of Agriculture continues to take action to protect the health and welfare of all animals in municipal shelters regardless of grandfather status.”

CT Votes for Animals is currently advocating for state lawmakers to pass Bill HB5575 — sponsored by Representative Dorinda Bore — which would push for updating municipal animal shelters. According to Basile, the bill was spurred by several shelters across the state exceeding 90 degrees last summer. 

“It was not a healthy environment for the animals, nor for the people who work in the shelter, both the volunteers and the animal control officers,” said Basile. She told the News that the shelters operating at 90 degrees were “perfectly in line with 1964 rules.”

David Michel, state representative from Stamford and co-chair of the Animal Advocacy Caucus, which reviews animal cruelty cases throughout Connecticut, explained that state Animal Control Officers are responsible for inspecting municipal shelters every six months. In their investigations, officers are required to ensure each shelter meets a list of criteria ranging from walls without chipped paint to air conditioning, and remedy any violation so that facilities do not deteriorate to extremes that necessitate the removal of animals. The News acquired email correspondence from the Animal Advocacy Caucus to the DOA from February of 2022 that contained critiques of DOA policies.

In an interview with the News, Michel expressed concern that the DOA might be neglecting their responsibility in enforcing regulations and reporting violations to the Attorney General. Over 20 shelters in Connecticut failed DOA inspections last year, according to Michel.

“There are municipal shelters in our state that fail it every six months,” said Michel. “The DOA is failing on the enforcement and this year we are adding standards for municipal shelters, which are very basic but necessary. But my concern is they can’t even make the previous standards be respected.”

However, Michel noted that appeals to the Attorney General’s office have seen little result. He proposed that the solution to animal shelters’ continuous violation of state regulation is to implement fines. Michel suggested high fines for first time offenders, and even higher ones for second time offenders.

“We can give them an incentive to do their duty,” said Michel. “I think it’s very shameless that a municipal shelter or a municipality decide not to improve the conditions of the animal that they’re actually responsible for caring for.”

NHPD Chief Karl Jacobson told the New Haven Register that the NHPD plans to implement changes such as photographing and weighing dogs upon their arrival at the shelter, making updates to shelter facilities and hiring two civilian animal control officers. The NHPD is now hiring a municipal assistant animal control officer. 

Manganiello, the former animal control officer, has been transferred from duty although he is still listed as the shelter’s animal officer on the official website. Manganiello did not respond to the News’ request for comment.

The New Haven Animal Shelter declined to comment on the ongoing investigations, and the News was turned away from the shelter by staff when asked for comment. NHPD Internal Affairs Officer in Charge Lt. Manmeet Colon also refused to comment, as it is an open internal affairs investigation.

The New Haven Animal Shelter is located at 81 Fournier Street. 

Hannah Kotler covers Cops & Courts and Transportation for the City desk. She is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles majoring in Ethics, Politics, Economics.