NAUGATUCK, Conn. — Naugatuck police have arrested three people in connection with animal abuse they said took place at the canine training facility owned by a New Canaan police officer who was arrested last week.
Naugatuck police launched a separate investigation into Black Rock Canines, a canine training facility located at 100 Hunters Mountain Road in Naugatuck, after allegations of abuse, threats, and failure to store and maintain explosive materials at the facility.
New Canaan police officer David Rivera was arrested Thursday on an arrest warrant alleging he used explosives in his business, which trains working dogs for various organizations. He was arraigned in Bridgeport Superior Court on Friday.
On Tuesday, Naugatuck Police Chief Colin McAllister announced that through their investigation, they determined that at least 10 dogs were killed by firearms and buried on the site and numerous other dogs of various ages and breeds were abused.
Police also said employees who were not trained to handle such items, moved and stored explosives between the business and other facilities in town.
Daniel Luna, 38, the general manager of the facility, is alleged to have abused numerous dogs and puppies during his employment.
"Luna's abuse and mistreatment of these animals included shooting the dogs which were determined to no longer be viable for the business," said McAllister.
Luna's lack of adequate care led to the death of puppies at the facility as well, he said.
Police said the remains of four dogs were recovered on site.
Police said witnesses revealed that military-grade high explosives were being improperly stored at the facility. Rivera is said to have told employees a number of times to take the explosives to the Naugatuck Events Center for training purposes inside the building while other people were taking part in activities in the building. Police said the employees were not trained or permitted for handling explosives.
Last Friday, police were called to Black Rock Canines, on a report that David Rivera Sr., 57, the arrested officer's father, was threatening a current and a former employee with a knife. He was charged with second-degree threatening and two counts of breach of peace. He posted a $25,000 bond and is scheduled to be in court on May 11.
On Monday, David Rivera, Jr., 34, turned himself in to police and was charged with conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals, first-degree reckless endangerment, and conspiracy to commit euthanization of a canine. He was released on a $150,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court on May 18.
On the same day, Luna, of Waterbury, turned himself in and 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 appeared in court Monday.
Police removed 31 dogs from the facility and brought them to animal care facilities where they will be held until the disposition of the case.
McAllister said the allegations were not only illegal but disheartening.
"As a police agency with three successful working police dogs that serve our community to the highest capability," he said. "We're appalled at the treatment that other dogs of the same caliber were given while under the care of Black Rock Canines."
"The fact that Rivera, Jr. is a police officer and used that authority in the commission of these crimes, undermines the trust and confidence that all Connecticut law enforcement officers seek to build within their community," said McAllister.
The arrest warrant for Rivera stated that during a police search of Rivera's home in Stratford, they found high explosives that were improperly stored. The warrant also stated that Rivera had no permit for possessing the explosives and that he was also found to be in possession of an assault weapon.
“Any explosives that aren’t stored correctly is a concern for us and obviously someone who’s not licensed to have them is also a concern," Sgt. Sean Connelly with the State Police Bomb Squad said.
Rivera Jr. was released after posting a $150,000 bond and is set to appear in court on May 18. Luna was held on a $225,000 bond and arraigned Tuesday.
Doug Stewart is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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