STAMFORD, Conn. -- As dozens of supporters rallied on her behalf at the courthouse Thursday, the fired head of Stamford’s Animal Control Center pleaded not guilty to three counts of reckless endangerment.
Laurie Hollywood was fired last month from her position after a police and human resources investigation found she had adopted out dogs with aggressive histories without telling their new owners, according to city officials and police.
The dogs subsequently went on to bite their new owners and others, police said. Police arrested Hollywood after she was fired by the city.
After Hollywood pleaded not guilty during her appearance, her court case was continued to Aug. 12.
Her supporters gathered at the courthouse Thursday were vehement in their support. Jenny Colucci said she and others believe Hollywood is innocent and was treated unfairly by Stamford.
“We believe in her innocence and we believe in her progressive modern sheltering that she brought to the City of Stamford,” Colucci said. “We fell that her dismissal is unfair.”
Other supporters said they fear the city will turn the animal shelter from a “no kill” shelter to one where unwanted dogs and cats will be euthanized.
“It used to be a kill shelter where they just didn’t really care at all,” protester Elaine Parruccini said, adding that the procedures changed when Hollywood arrived in 2005. “It is just a terrible setback that they come with these false accusations about Laurie Hollywood and try to put it up for grabs that this should be a kill shelter.”
Supporters held signs saying, “Laurie Innocent, City Guilty,” “Whistle Blower Retaliation” and “Stop The Witch Hunt.’’
One supporter was dressed in a Tigger costume in honor of a dog with that name in the shelter that Hollywood supporters say could be killed.
At one point, a man thought to be a lawyer drove up to the supporters outside the courthouse in his pickup truck and accused them of writing obscenities on his windshield.
A shouting match ensued, with supporters saying they had nothing to do with it, telling him they didn’t know who he was and returning his insults word for word. But courthouse security intervened, and the man drove away.
The case began June 18 when the city fired Hollywood and released a report from its investigation that determined that Hollywood had adopted out dogs with a history of biting despite two prior warnings from the state not to do so.
The victims from one dog included a child, adults and other dogs. She also failed to report dog bites and injuries on multiple occasions and failed to take action, the city said in its statement.
One of the dogs that was adopted out had bitten three police officers in the past, according to the report.
The city also said Hollywood caused a false official city record to be created to cover up the adopting out of a dog with a documented history of biting.
Hollywood had also practiced veterinary medicine without having a valid license and was investigated by the state Department of Public Health, the city said.
The investigation began April 18 after multiple complaints about the center. Hollywood had been placed on leave on May 2.
Stamford Mayor David Martin appointed an Animal Control Center Task Force after Hollywood was fired.
Its job is to review current policies and procedures of the animal control center. It is also charged with making recommendations for potential sites for a new Animal Control Center.