A New Canaan police officer who owns a dog training business has been arrested on animal cruelty charges in Naugatuck, according to police.
David Rivera, owner of Black Rock Canine Training and a member of the New Canaan Police Department’s canine division, was arrested and charged with malicious wounding/killing of an animal after turning himself into police on Saturday, police said. Naugatuck in a statement Monday.
Those charges stem from the original investigation into Black Rock in May, when Rivera and former coach Daniel Luna were cited for animal cruelty and accidental handling of explosives. The new charges are related to a dog owner’s allegations that her dog was injured and abused in the care of Rivera’s facility in 2021, police said.
Police began investigating Black Rock after state animal control officials received numerous complaints of animal cruelty and the illegal killing of dogs at the facility, authorities said.
The business was known to police because it offered police and government agencies explosive detection canine training and obedience training for personally owned dogs, among other services, a warrant for Luna’s arrest in May said.
Rivera, 34, and Luna, 33, were arrested on multiple charges in May after police found evidence of abuse and illegal possession of explosives.
Officers unearthed four dogs that former employees said Luna shot and killed after feeding them at the Naugatuck training facility. Luna allegedly told workers that “useless” dogs were going “to Mexico,” according to the arrest warrant.
Workers reportedly told state animal control officers that 10 dogs were shot and killed at the facility.
Employees told investigators the dogs were poorly cared for and abused, including beating them with pipes, whipping them to force them to obey commands and letting the puppies freeze to death, according to the warrant. One worker said he saw videos taken by other employees that showed dogs with blood dripping from their heads, whip marks, scars and burn marks, according to the warrant.
A police search of Rivera’s home in Stratford yielded 10 pounds of the explosive C-4, TNT, blasting caps and other explosives, for which Rivera did not have a permit, officials said at the time.
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The teenagers were also reportedly transporting explosives to a city-owned building on Rubber Ave. where dogs were being trained to detect explosives, a former employee told police.
The former employee himself told investigators that explosives were stored in Tupperware containers and some of them were covered in condensation.
After news broke of Rivera’s arrest, police said they received numerous calls from former customers of Black Rock Canines.
“Each has their own story of taking their canine there for training only to receive a canine back who has had injuries, scars and is not the same in behavior,” the order said.
“The volume of complaints has provided insight into a business riddled with allegations of abuse and neglect,” said Det. John Williams wrote in the warrant for Luna’s arrest.
Rivera and Luna “not only created animal cruelty, but endangered employees and the general public in Naugatuck with the use of explosives,” Williams wrote.
Rivera will appear in Waterbury Superior Court on August 25.