BY ANDREAS YILMA
BEACON FALLS — The town animal control officer has been placed on paid administrative leave and is being investigated after nearly 100 sheep were seized on a farm, which included some dead sheep on the property.
The state Department of Agriculture is investigating Patrick Dionne, the Beacon Falls animal control officer and who also works in the animal control division at the Waterbury Police Department.
Dionne has been placed on paid administrative leave in both municipalities while his role in the deaths of the animals is determined.
The Department of Agriculture executed a search-and-seizure warrant on Feb. 24 for 99 sheep and one goose on a farm at 392 Lopus Road following a resident’s complaint about the welfare of the animals. The animals were taken to a rescue and rehabilitation facility in Niantic.
The warrant states two lambs and five adult sheep were found dead on the property after state workers visited the premises on Feb. 23 and asked the property owner Dave Chesnutis for permission to inspect the property.
Chesunits also voluntarily surrendered 15 cats, which were taken to Woodbridge Regional Animal Control.
The state received a complaint Feb. 22 and met with the owner the next day. The owner gave Department of Agriculture workers permission to remove one ewe and her lamb so a veterinarian could provide critical treatment for survival. Those animals were then taken to the rescue barn in Niantic.
The state has “probable cause to believe and do believe that the animals observed on 392 Lopus Road, Beacon Falls, Connecticut, have been and are being neglected and/or cruelly treated,” according to the warrant.
Waterbury Police Public Information Officer Ryan Bessette said there isn’t an internal affairs investigation and there aren’t any recent complaints on Dionne but he’s being investigated by the state for his role with Lopus Road farm investigation.
“We don’t know enough about the investigation in Beacon Falls,” Bessette said. “Until we get more information on what he may or may not have done as part of his duties, we want to make sure that we see what happened there.”
There isn’t a set time table on the investigation, Bessette said.
Bessette said the Waterbury Police Department is in contact with Beacon Falls officials regarding the investigation into the animal control officer.
First Selectman Gerard Smith said he didn’t want to comment until the investigation into Dionne is complete.
The farm complaint and surveillance revealed “animal welfare concerns, including unsuitable living conditions, excess growth of wool causing skin conditions and bald patches, as well as lameness due to overgrown hooves,” the state said in a news release.
State licensed veterinarians were expected to evaluate and treat the sheep, which include 65 adults and 34 lambs.
The animals will remain in state custody and care until the case is resolved in the court system.
Chesnutis declined to comment on the matter at this time.
The state said it attempts to work with owners voluntarily to improve standards of care and removal of animals is a last resort.
Resources and support for animal owners facing hardship is available by calling 860-713-2500.