Owner, worker arrested in Naugatuck animal cruelty case; accused of killing dogs

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Naugatuck Police Chief Colin McAllister speaks to the media during a news conference Tuesday at police headquarters. Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — A New Canaan police officer, who owns a local dog business, and his employee were arrested on charges of killing and abusing dogs at Black Rock Canines, 100 Hunters Mountain Road.

David Rivera Jr. of Stratford, the owner, and Daniel Luna of Waterbury, the general manager, both turned themselves in Monday.

“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 Chief Colin McAllister said Tuesday during a news conference at police headquarters.

Rivera Jr. was charged with conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals, first-degree reckless endangerment and conspiracy to commit euthanization of a canine. He was released after posting a $150,000 bond and is scheduled to appear May 18 at Waterbury Superior Court.

Daniel Luna. Contributed

Luna was charged with four counts of cruelty to animals, four counts of conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals, first-degree reckless endangerment, four counts of unlawful euthanization of a canine, four counts of conspiracy to commit euthanization of a canine and third-degree identity theft. He was held on a $225,000 bond and scheduled to appear Tuesday at Waterbury Superior Court.

The arrests follow a joint investigation by Naugatuck and Stratford police, state police and the state Department of Agriculture’s Animal Control Unit that alleges animal cruelty and the storage of illegal explosives, McAllister said.

The business is a training facility for potential police and military canines, in addition to privately owned dogs.

Police allege numerous German shepherds, Belgian Malinois and Labrador retrievers were abused and injured at Black Rock Canines. Employees euthanized 10 dogs with a firearm and borough detectives uncovered the remains of four, McAllister said.

Naugatuck police assisted state, federal and Stratford police with the execution of a search and-seizure warrant at Black Rock Canines on April 26. Based upon investigators’ observations at the scene, Naugatuck police obtained a separate search-and-seizure warrant, which led to the seizure of evidence directly related to the allegations of animal cruelty and abuse.

Naugatuck detectives’ investigative efforts found Luna had abused numerous puppies and dogs, McAllister said.

“Daniel Luna’s mistreatment and abuse of these animals included the shooting of dogs which were deemed no longer viable for the business,” McAllister said.

Witnesses also stated Luna’s lack of adequate care led to the death of puppies that had been left exposed to harsh weather, police allege.

Naugatuck detectives obtained an additional search-and-seizure warrant at Black Rock Canines on Tuesday for state and local animal control officers to remove the remaining 31 dogs housed at the business and place them at a shelter.

David Rivera Jr. Contributed

Witnesses also reported military-grade explosives were unlawfully stored on the property, police allege. Employees were directed on numerous occasions to remove explosives from the storage location at Black Rock Canines and transport them to the Naugatuck Event Center for canine training inside the building, police allege. These high explosives were stored in Tupperware containers and handled by employees who lacked the training or necessary permits to do so, McAllister said.

Sgt. Sean Connelly, a member of the state police bomb squad, said several pounds of high and low explosives were discovered during the investigation.

Naugatuck police were dispatched to Black Rock Canines again April 29 for a report of employees being threatened. An investigation revealed Rivera’s father, David Rivera Sr., of Stratford, was at the business, threatening one current employee and a former employee with a knife, police allege.

Rivera Sr. was arrested on charges of second-degree threatening and two counts of breach of peace. He was released after posting a $25,000 bond and is scheduled to appear May 11 at Waterbury Court.