Dog electrocuted on Western Ave

Boston.com / News / Local / Mass. / NStar holds the power

Very sad news from March 1.

A one-year-old dog died yesterday after stepping in a muddy area where a live electrical wire was buried on Western Avenue in Allston.

The boxer's 13-year-old owner, who had been taking the dog for a morning walk, watched as the dog suddenly lurched and went into convulsions. The boy was injured slightly when the dog bit his hand. "The dog was shaking, and he nipped at the boy and then collapsed and died," said Bonnie Zeledon, vice president of marketing for Angell Animal Medical Center, where the dog was pronounced dead.

The incident rekindled outrage from Boston city leaders who say the problem of stray electricity is out of control.

"What makes me so disgusted is that every body is going to start pointing fingers again instead of solving the problem," said Councilor at Large Maura Hennigan, who insisted last year that the city conduct an investigation into the problem after several dogs and their owners were shocked by manhole covers and other places in city streets where electrical currents were flowing.

While a series of City Council hearings on the issue were held last year, Hennigan says that the city needs to do more.

"I am just so enraged," she said. "Now you have someone's pet killed and someone's child injured because of this. Are we waiting for someone to die before doing something? It's so aggravating."

After conducting an investigation yesterday, officials from the city's Inspectional Services Department cited NStar, saying that several years ago the company removed a light pole from the spot where the dog was electrocuted. The company failed to shut off power to the site and cap wires that remained exposed under the surface.

"A violation will be written against NStar," said city spokeswoman Lisa Timberlake. "It is NStar's duty to maintain the electricity. If there's no pole there, it's NStar's responsibility to shut off the power."

NStar officials offered words of condolence to the boy's family. The family could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"Our hearts go out to the family, especially to the boy," said Michael Durand, NStar spokesman. "We all know that this is a difficult time for them, and we have reached out to them. They are under standably upset, and we are doing what we can to work with them."

Company officials said they are investigating why power was not shut off after the light pole was removed.

"We are continuing to research and find out how this could have happened," Durand said. "There was a streetlight post set with under ground electricity. The pole is no longer there. When lights are removed, the electricity that feeds [them is] generally disconnected. We are responsible for the underground electricity distribution system in the city of Boston. We are responsible to find out why this happened."

Durand said the damp ground, which may also have been soaked with salt from the nearby roadway, probably made the ground conduct current from the exposed wires underneath. He added that the company would not have known about the problem without the accident.

Last year, city officials, outraged by similar problems involving live electric currents conducted by manhole covers, conducted several hearings and demanded that NStar inspect all its property for stray wires. The company subsequently issued a report saying that 99.9 percent of the manholes were free of live wires.

The report also found that about eight incidents in which stray electrical currents shocked dogs or their owners showed that either no current was found at the site or that the problem was attributed to a business other than NStar.

Still, Durand said, officials somehow missed the site where the dog was electrocuted yesterday.

Workers at nearby WGBH offices yesterday morning heard yelping and the boy screaming. They ran outside and then called emergency officials and the boy's family. "People inside heard the dog barking and the boy screaming; it's just so sad," said Valerie Gunderson, a WGBH worker.

One woman rushed to the scene about a half-hour after the accident, hoping to obtain the boy's address to send him flowers.

"We're just feeling a lot of shock and sadness," said Patrina Katsikas, who also works for WGBH. "That poor dog. I heard he died pretty quick."

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