UPDATED: Man Shoots at Bear That Attacks Dog at West Hartford Reservoir

Dog has been treated at an emergency veterinary hospital in Avon and is expected to recover.

UPDATED: 1:15 p.m.

The MDC reservoir was reopened as of noon today, although West Harford Police report that neither they nor the DEEP have successfully located the bear that allegedly attacked a dog early this morning.

According to police, the dog that was attacked was a 6-year-old schnauzer belonging to Dan Sweeney, 29, of Harwich Lane in West Hartford. Sweeney told police that he "fired his handgun several times at the bear in an attempt to save his dog." He said that once the bear ran off into the woods, he was able to retrieve his dog and bring it the VCA Avon Emergency Animal Hospital.

According to police, the dog is expected to recover.

MDC is currently investigating the incident. West Hartford Police report that there is no evidence that any of the shots struck the bear.

Dave Mackellar of Hartford, formerly of West Hartford, set off to walk his dog, Guinness, shortly after noon in the area of the reservoir where the incident occurred earlier Monday morning.

"I come up here all the time because no one is around. You can't predict where bears are going to be, but who packs heat when they're walking up here," Mackellar said. Guinness, a large sandy-colored dog that Mackellar said is predominantly lab, was on a leash as the two set off for their walk.


UPDATED: 10:30 a.m.

Police are still searching for the bear that attacked a dog early Monday morning on MDC property south of Albany Ave. in West Hartford.

According to information received from The Metropolitan District (MDC), officials have closed the "West Hartford Water Treatment Facility and reservoir/recreation areas located at 1420 Farmington Avenue in West Hartford, while West Hartford Police Department and the CT DEEP investigate a reported bear sighting on the property early this morning."

Kerry Martin, MDC spokesperson, said that the bear was reportedly heading south toward the main entrance of the facility, and officials are preventing access for safety reasons.

West Hartford Police are stationed on Albany Ave., denying access to the reservoir property from that location. Reservoir #6, which is on the opposite side of Albany Ave., remains open.

According to Lt. Jeff Rose of the West Hartford Police, police have identified the site of the shooting, about 1/4 mile south of Albany Ave. No blood was found at the scene, Rose said.

The man who shot at the bear has been identified as Dan Sweeney of West Hartford, but no other information is yet available. According to Rose, Sweeney has now taken the dog to his own veterinarian.

Rose confirmed that the dog was off-leash when the incident occurred. "Rules and Regulations" for public use of the West Hartford Reservoirs and Reservoir #6 specifically state that "dogs must controlled and on a leash."

The regulations also specifically prohibit "carrying or discharging firearms or dangerous weapons."

Rose said that it is currently "business as usual" at nearby Renbrook School, where summer camp is in session.

"Everyone should be vigilant," Rose cautioned. Although it is not known whether one of the bullets actually hit the bear was injured, he said people should never approach injured animals.



A man walking a dog at the MDC Reservoir property shot at a bear early Monday morning after it attacked the dog, police said.

According to Lt. Jeff Rose of the , the man was walking the dog on MDC property on the south side of Albany Ave., near Old Stone Crossing and Renbrook School, an area known to many runners and bikers as "the berm."

The incident was reported at 6:41 a.m. According to Rose, the man shot at the bear several times. Details are still unclear, and Rose said that some neighbors reported hearing four shots. He is unsure about the breed of the dog, but thinks it may be a schnauzer.

Rose said that the man was not injured, and the bear ran off. He did not know if the bear was hit. Police are on the scene now, and are trying to locate the bear, Rose said.

The dog was taken to at 9 Avonwood Rd in Avon. A nurse at the animal hospital said, "We are in the middle of stabilizing the dog here."

Rose said the only other incident he recalls where someone shot at a bear in West Hartford occurred in May 1990.

Adam July 17, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Jon: There appears to be an issue whether the incident was on public or private property. The answer to that question is an important factor in your analysis. According to the MDC's website: "The land is public water supply watershed land that protects the quality of MDC reservoirs and drinking water. Although the beauty of the MDC reservoir areas has long made them an attraction for recreation, they are not public parks. Their public use is regulated by the Connecticut Department of Public Health (Section 24-43c of the Connecticut General Statutes) and enforced by MDC police. " http://www.themdc.com/west_hartfordres.shtml Thus, it appears this is public property.
Adam July 17, 2012 at 06:20 PM
michael July 17, 2012 at 08:21 PM
You're absolutely right Tom. If you pull the trigger on a firearm you OWN that bullet until it stops moving. Checking the background of whatever you may be shooting at is a critical step. Since we weren't there and nothing was hurt we can assume he did make the right decision. Small arms, handguns in particular are not death rays. There is a lot of false fear generated mainly by the media that the bullets will continue tumbling and zinging from tree to tree and rock to rock for miles until striking an unsuspecting toddler and then continuing on to kill the teacher and several other infants in the room adjacent. Nonsense. Police shooting at a fleeing suspect have less than a %30 chance of striking on average. How many of those shootings in an URBAN environment strike innocents? I've been an active shooter for over two decades with a lot of experience in various ballistic tests. Again, I'm not saying shooting a 9mm in the woods is a great idea but with proper discipline on the part of the shooter (who IS responsible) the real risk is close to zero. You're more likely to be attacked and killed by one of those vicious yellow gates. (that's a joke).
Daisy Mae July 17, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Maybe he should take some target practice!
Chester July 17, 2012 at 11:15 PM
This guy should face charges of illegally discharging a firearm. I have no problem with him having the gun as long as he had a permit, but he should have only used it to protect himself or his family, not a pet. As soon as he pulled that trigger, he risked the life of anyone who may have been in the area.
Scott S July 18, 2012 at 02:10 PM
I guess its time for the MDC to add a signs advertising free defensless victims. That way opertunistic criminals who may be carrying a firearm know just where to go to commit a crime without resistance. That or a school. By banning the carrying of firearms by law abiding citizens the MDC has only worked to ensure that the only firearms present are there for malicious purposes, and that a law-abiding citizen cannot defend him/herself.
Saul Freedman July 18, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Some of us don't view pets as property or objects, Chester.
Jon July 18, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Obviously they are not "law abiding" if they cannot follow simple laws.... You are missing the point. The MDC is private property. Just has you have rights on your property. If you ask someone not to bring their firearm onto your property then it's your right toask them to leave if they cannot respect your rules.
Guido July 18, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Get real: the only opportunistic criminals that you would encounter are a squirrel or a chipmunk stealing acorns. What nuts!
Fred July 18, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Darn it no more posts to read right when I thought the bear attack would be blamed on Bush also.
Scott S July 18, 2012 at 05:55 PM
My comment is aimed at the rule itself...mostly because of the direction the comments have gone. That being said it is quite clear that the MDC has an established set of rules. The man was in violation of at least one(carrying), and possibly another(leash). He will most likely face some charges as a result. Had he shot at the bear in order to protect a human he still would have technically been in the wrong. Had he been trying to protect a woman from a rapist he STILL TECHNICALLY would have been in the wrong, but he'd be a hero.... Stupid rule? Yes, but he broke it.
Saul Freedman July 18, 2012 at 09:19 PM
The Metropolitan District Commission will not cite a man who fired eight shots at a bear after it attacked his dog because he wasn't on MDC property, an agency lawyer said Wednesday afternoon. Professional engineers surveyed the scene of the Monday morning attack and learned that it did not happen on agency property, said Chris Stone, assistant MDC counsel. Workers also traced Dan Sweeney's path and learned that he never walked on MDC property with a gun, which is against agency regulations. http://www.courant.com/community/west-hartford/hc-west-hartford-bear-attack-0717-20120716,0,6423270.story
Chris Carroll July 18, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Two words, BEAR SPRAY!
Scott S July 18, 2012 at 09:54 PM
@ Saul THAT changes everything....
Karen's Dog Training Blog July 18, 2012 at 10:21 PM
I am very sorry to hear the his dog Kepler died. Don't wish that on anyone. Very sad ending.
Andrew Ziemba July 19, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Ralph, please stop trolling. Either contribute to the article or don't post anything. It's pretty clearly stated in the TOS that you are not to troll as you are.
Mark Raymond July 19, 2012 at 02:16 AM
According to the Courant article http://www.courant.com/community/west-hartford/hc-west-hartford-bear-attack-0717-20120716,0,6423270.story ...the man was not on MDC land and therefore will not be charged. The dog also has died.
michael July 19, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Just a heads up if you hike/run out there. The black bears this year particularly seem to be very edgy. In prior years 99% of them would run away with a little yelling/noise. This year not so much. I'm not sure why. There seem to be a bumper crop of young aggressive males that are not tagged. A 90 pound bear seems cute and harmless but those are the ones I've had the most problem with. The very young and the very old and desperate have the worst potential. Generally the huge healthy 400 pounders that wander through my yard have been well behaved. Real bear mace in a holster positioned for instant access works fairly well with some limitations. I'm partial to the large DAP canisters which you can get at most CT sporting-goods stores. Having a backup firearm is also a good idea if you're willing to actually train/practice at least monthly with said firearm and realize the responsibilities and limitations of that tool as well. Be warned that the Bear Spray can and will temporarily blind and choke you as well if there's even the slightest breeze blowing back at you. Ask me how I know. I've 'educated' more destructive problem bears on my property this year with the spray than I ever have before. If I get a good hit they don't come back. Be safe out there.
Thomas E. Brown July 20, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Karen, the eight warning shots fired missed the bear and went into the reservoir so don't drink the water. A bear with cubs can be extremely dangerous to any person or animal nearby. Just get between a mom and it's cubs by accident and you will probably get mauled to death. Bears are a huge hazard in a residential community, especially to children. It's only a matter of time before there's a tragedy. Bears are beautiful and majestic animals, but just like deer, their populations need to be controlled by hunting. I'm sick of marauding herds of deer treating my yard like it's a salad bar and bears passing through like it's an interstate. It's great that responsible people out there can still carry firearms to defend themselves and others. Mr. Sweeney has my vote of confidence for defending his pet from being further maimed. Had there been a few Mr. Sweeney,s in Aurora Colorado last night, the outcome of the Batman flick might have been different.
Karen's Dog Training Blog July 20, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Your sarcasm is unnecessary. Maybe there were people with firearms in the theater who never got a chance to to try take out the shooter. You don't know. A little different than what happened in West Hartford. Can't compare Aurora with a man whose unleashed dog more than likely harassed a bear that defended itself.
Adam July 20, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Karen: I don't see any sarcasm if Tom's comments. Tom appears to be saying that innocent patrons of the theater were victims of well-intentioned gun control laws in Colorado. Also, it does not appear that Sweeney was under any obligation to leash his dog as he was NOT on MDC property at the time of the incident. Let's keep in mind that his dog was a schnauzer, which is a fairly small dog. If the bear went after a schnauzer, who knows what it would have done (may do) to a human. The dog was probably barking at the bear to alert and protect his owner, hardly an objectionable trait.
Bob July 20, 2012 at 02:54 PM
http://www.vpc.org/fact_sht/ccwmurdersuicides.pdf Read this, and realize there is another discussion to be had. Leave the damn bears alone, everything has been written on the subject... If you truly care about people, I'd be interested in some creative ideas to deal with the tragic mass killings of innocent people in this country.
Karen's Dog Training Blog July 20, 2012 at 02:56 PM
"Karen, the eight warning shots fired missed the bear and went into the reservoir so don't drink the water." "The dog was probably barking at the bear to alert and protect his owner, hardly an objectionable trait." The dog off leash barking at a bear for whatever reason ended up with a dead dog. Dog barking while on 6 ft leash nest to owner would have been a lot safer in hindsight. If you are out and about in the world, stuff happens. His dog was off leash and it got killed. If dog was not off leash, it would have been safe as was his other dog. To have dog off leash was his choice. Ended up as a tragedy. Again, his choice to let the dog run loose - apparently he did not break any laws - so it just turned out to be a bad choice. The bear did NOT go after Sweeney - it went after his unleashed dog that more than likely charged after the bear like many dogs would do. If a human were to go charging up to a bear in the same manner and was was attacked - I would say - stupid human. Bears do not simply go nuts and attack people around here. People are so afraid of animals. When hiking - make noise, wear bear bells so the animals hear you and know you are in the area. Bears really do not want to fight with dogs and humans, but if not given a choice, they will.
Thomas E. Brown July 20, 2012 at 06:33 PM
What's your point Bob. You allow guns to be taken away from people, than the tyrants have total control of the masses which is the reason that the second amendment exists. They currently don't randomly barge into your home on a whim for fear of what might be in the hands of the owner on the other side of the door. Remove the guns from the homocidal mourons and they will only be substituting knives, baseball bats, poison, stragulation to name a few means to extract the life from the living. What are you going to do than, remove knives, baseball bats, poison and rope. Where are your statistics for murder suicides involving means other than guns? How many of these murder suicide incidents involved the use of prescription psych drugs that actually exacerbate the miscreant behavior? It's likely a far higher percentage than the medical industrial complex wants made public. That statistic is pretty well buried along with the victims although it was indicated in Columbine. People die every day in car accidents some of which might even be deliberate, why not ban cars too why you're at it. Until this fallen world rights itself, there is too little love in the hearts humans and there will be guns and other tools used offensibly by those who are heartless souless ghuls. We all have the right to effectively protect ourselves against them in any way we see fit. May fate not find your achelies heel Bob.
Saul Freedman July 20, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Next time there's a bear incident, the media should consult Karen. She's apparently "The Bear Whisperer." How's that for sarcasm Karen?
Bob July 20, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Just one example here but, it's achilles Thomas. Your argument is always more convincing if you spell correctly. Don't think our forefathers had assault rifles in mind. Spelling correctly, or not,... I don't think your words would be well received by the victims families. Do you?
Karen's Dog Training Blog July 20, 2012 at 08:43 PM
@ Saul - comment is unneccessary and silly. .
Andrew Ziemba July 20, 2012 at 08:55 PM
The founding fathers wanted a nation that, at any time, had the firepower to forcefully and violently overthrow a tyrannical government. I don't care if you are a liberal or a conservative, or an anarchist, you are an absolute lunatic if you think that they would have envisioned that in 2012 the government and police forces would have 20-1 firepower as they do today! To name a few, they have microwave cannons, sound cannons, unmanned drones, RPGs, tanks...and you are worried about law abiding citizens carrying assault rifles? Seriously?
Thomas E. Brown July 20, 2012 at 09:25 PM
It think that if our forefathers had assault rifles, they would have embraced the technology and kept the crown out for good. Typical left wing response, attack the messenger's spelling and not the message. It is pathetic to leverage your cause off of the victims families. It would be a shame to miss a perfectly good mass murder as an opportunity to advance gun control. The communist takeover is almost complete! The only guns were in the hands of the bad guy. Again, right from the playbook of using victims to further your agenda. If you don't have victims, create them by fomenting class warfare, the haves vs have nots, gays vs straights, blacks vs whites, progressives vs conservatives choice vs pro choice. Make the peoples head spin and dodge the real issues that are upon us. Maybe we should all drop our differences, chant at a crystal together and hope the problem of evil doers will go away. Or maybe we should arm ourselves and the evil doers will stay away.
Paul Chotkowski July 20, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Recall a similar act of violence in December of 2007, at a Colorado Springs church. Matthew J. Murray shot and killed four people at two locations and wounded 5 before he was stopped by the returned fire of Ms. Jeanne Assam, an armed church member attending services. Guns don't kill people, people do! And though it is not the wild west you have a choice, be a sheep or be a sheep dog [168, 000 CT residents have chosen to be part of the solution] because there will always be wolves. If you are hoplophobic seek treatment. Banning firearms is not the solution to your fear. The analogue would be a dystychiphobic or methyphobic seeking to ban cars and alcohol after someone is killed by a drunk driver going the wrong way down 84. Society would roll their eyes at the significantly more frequent later but they sometime seriously consider the former. Let me be clear the CO shooter is a monster. My prayers are with the victim's families and friends. But this is indicative of something greater, there is a hole in the soul of America. Don’t blame the gun, don’t even blame Hollywood, if you must blame, blame the breakdown of the family and civil society, blame the fact that we seek respect from others rather than acting in a way that deserve respect, blame the fact that we don’t teach / follow the golden rule “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”! All our words about the bear and the deceased schnauzer are a little silly when run thru the lens of Aurora.


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