The former head of a Stamford animal shelter received a strong show of support outside court Thursday.
As CBS 2′s Tony Aiello reported, Laurie Hollywood was met with cheers after she pleaded not guilty to reckless endangerment charges. Prosecutors say Hollywood, 42, allowed people to adopt dogs that she knew were prone to biting.
For nine years, Hollywood ran the Stamford Animal Control Center, where she took pride in finding families for thousands of dogs, her supporters said.
“She gave nine years of hard work, really turned that center around and is really looking to clear her name here,” Hollywood’s attorney, Mark Sherman, said.
“Laurie put her heart and soul into the shelter,” said shelter volunteer Valerie DeVito. “That wasn’t just her job; that was Laurie’s life.”
But in recent months, the city learned of several reports of adopted dogs attacking people.
Hollywood was fired in mid-June after city investigators concluded she had doctored paperwork to cover up previous dog bite incidents and allowed those animals to be adopted out as good pets.
“There needs to be adequate disclosure when that is a known fact, when the dog has bitten in the past and that is known to those involved,” said attorney Alan Pickel, who represents a man bitten by one of the shelter dogs.
Connecticut state officials warned Hollywood in 2008 and again in 2011 that she was not following best practices when it came to placing dogs with a history of biting, Aiello reported.
“Any dog can bite,” said shelter volunteer Elaine Parruccini, who added that she doesn’t believe Hollywood falsified records.
The controversy has added dimensions. While supporters are portraying Hollywood as the victim of a witch hunt — punished for exposing abuses at the shelter — they also accuse Stamford Mayor David Martin of wanting to end the “no kill” police there. The mayor has denied that claim.
While the court case against Hollywood proceeds, the city has a task force studying how to fix a center that clearly has issues.