The New Canaan woman whose dogs ran off property last week and mauled a neighbor’s miniature donkey knew that her invisible fence was not functioning at the time of the attack, according to the company that installed the system.
Four days before the Jan. 23 incident, tree work done at Erin Newlin’s Lantern Ridge Road home had led to a wire break that caused the invisible fence system to shut down, said Jesse Rosenschein, marketing communications manager at Wilton-based Canine Company.
Newlin initially had booked for a Jan. 24 repair but then on Jan. 22, phoned Canine Company “to say that the dogs were loose in the yard (despite the fact that the system was down) and they [were] running amuck,” Rosenschein told New Canaan Patch in an email. “They asked if we could send a technician sooner. So we did.”
The technician arrived the next morning, Jan. 23, about two hours after Newlin’s two dogs had attacked the donkey on nearby North Wilton Road—knocking him down, tearing off his tail, nearly disemboweling the animal and causing what police have called severe head injuries. Newlin herself broke up the fight by pulling her dogs off of the donkey, which bit her forearm in the scuffle. Both Newlin and the donkey are expected to make full recoveries, police have said.
Newlin, 49, when reached by Patch on Tuesday declined to comment before hearing the company's understanding of events.
Police cited Newlin for two counts each of allowing a dog to roam and owning a nuisance dog, and fined her $334 which she must pay or plead by Feb. 8.
Rosenschein said: “This incident is very unfortunate for our client and all those involved.”
"We care about all our clients and their pets and hope this saddening situation never happens again," she added.
"By calling us she was taking action to try to restore the safe and proper containment of her dogs," Rosenschein continued.
Originally, the dog’s escape was believed to have been a breach of the invisible fence itself.
According to Officer Richard Mercado of the New Canaan Police Department’s animal control unit, animals on properties where there are invisible fences do get out—typically because the batteries in their collars are low.
“And also power failure is one of the biggest [causes],” Mercado said.
Rosenschein told Patch during a phone interview that the company’s invisible fences are 99.5 percent effective.
“However, we do recommend professional training after installation because it’s really important to help your dogs learn and establish their boundaries,” she said.
Canine Company urges clients to sign up for a program that delivers batteries to their homes at scheduled intervals to ensure timely replacement. The company’s invisible fences beep when there’s a wire break—such as from construction, landscaping or a snowplow, she said—to alert clients to a problem. That’s what happened in Newlin’s case, she said.
The .5 percent of the time where invisible fences are not working include when there’s wire damage, unchanged batteries or a dog that has not been properly trained by a certified trainer.
“We always send a consultant to assess a dog before we put in a system and train the dog on the fence,” Rosenschein said. “If a fence is down, we encourage that the client continues to leash walk their pet until the system is properly restored.”
“In very rare circumstances, an evaluation will determine that a dog will not train well on a fence, in this case we will recommend that the dog owner not have the product installed,” she added.