Maura In The News

Dogs get their day at city hearing: Tearful owners decry `hot spots'
By Thomas Caywood - Boston Herald
Tuesday, March 9, 2004

The owners of more than a dozen dogs that have been shocked or electrocuted on the streets of Boston in recent years told their stories to city councilors yesterday, often through tears, while Nstar executives insisted the utility isn't to blame.

Monica Ponce de Leon wept at the memory of the day four years ago when her beloved vizsla, Laszlo, was fried after his paw hit a wet grate hiding several exposed wires from a city-owned traffic signal box in the South End.

``I can't tell you what losing my dog in this fashion has done to me personally,'' she said through tears.

John Toner, who was severely jolted and nearly electrocuted along with his dog in December on their Mission Hill street, also wept as he told city councilors how Blue now limps on their walks.

``I doubt if he'll ever romp in the snow again,'' Toner said, his voice croaking with emotion.

When it was their turn to testify before the City Council's Public Utilities and Cable Communications Committee, Nstar executives said the company is as much a victim as the dog owners of careless contractors who damage the utility's underground power lines.

``The incidents we heard about today are not the failure of Nstar to maintain its electric system,'' Nstar's Walter Salvi said.

When pressed by City Councilor Michael Ross, Nstar's head of electrical operations, Phil Andreas, said none of the more than a dozen incidents happened as a result of mistakes by the utility.

But Ross and Councilor Maura Hennigan faulted the utility for initially resisting calls to survey its manhole covers and equipment looking for other hot spots. After a Labrador retriever was electrocuted in Charlestown, the company said such a survey wasn't necessary but then reversed itself last week when a vizsla named Crumb was zapped in Chinatown.

``I think it's sad we had to have Crumb shocked before there was a recognition on Nstar's part that this was not an anomaly,'' Hennigan said.

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