Update: Corroded connection faulted for stray voltage that injured dogA corroded electrical connection has been blamed for the stray current that injured a dog in downtown Hudson on the night of Feb. 6. The city is in the process of inspecting all electrical boxes similar to the one that had the problem.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
A corroded electrical connection has been blamed for the stray current that injured a dog in downtown Hudson on the night of Feb. 6.
The exposed wire was in an electrical box beneath a Second Street sidewalk at Locust Street, according to Craig Kraemer, a journeyman wireman for B & B Electric who helped fix the problem Monday morning, Feb. 9.
Kraemer said the exposed wire likely conducted electricity into the metal box and the wet concrete surrounding it.
A 5-year-old black Labrador retriever suffered burns on her paws, stomach and chest when she was shocked while crossing Second Street with her owner, Scott Hawkins of New Richmond.
Hawkins, a Hudson real estate agent, was returning to his car at about 8:15 p.m. after having attended the Hot Air Affair parade and fireworks with his girlfriend and her children.
He said his dog, Cady, began to yelp and bite at one of her back feet when they were about three feet from the curb on the east side of Second Street.
Hawkins said Cady lay howling in pain for about a minute before he was able to remove her metal collar and chain, and that he could feel the electricity going through the dog as he removed her collar.
Cady lost control of her bowels during the ordeal and was bleeding from her feet.
Hudson Public Works and Parks Director Tom Zeuli, who also was downtown for the Hot Air Affair celebration, learned of electrical problem minutes after the dog was injured.
Zeuli quickly went to the control panel for streetlights in that area of the downtown and turned off the electricity.
“I knew exactly which circuit to close down after talking to the police,” Zeuli said in a phone call last week. “The situation was handled within minutes.”
The streetlights along Second Street from Walnut to Vine streets remained off for the Feb. 6-7 weekend.
B & B Electric, a Hudson company, was called about the problem early Monday morning, Feb. 9, and had it fixed by 8 a.m., Zeuli said.
Kraemer said wires in the pole boxes expand and contract as streetlights come on and go off in the winter months.
“So there is a little bit of rubbing that could occur on parts of the pole boxes,” he said.
The rubbing can wear off the wire’s protective plastic coating and the vinyl rubberized tape that covers connections.
Kraemer said he couldn’t be sure how the stray voltage was conducted because the electricity was off when he investigated the problem Monday morning.
“So I don’t know how much current was bleeding off,” he added. “It could have been low voltage, around 10 volts, up to 60, 70, 80 volts.”
Kraemer said he told Zeuli and Mark Loughney of the city Public Works Department that they should visually check all of the pole boxes in the downtown to make sure there are no other exposed wires.
The in-ground pole boxes are typically at intersections that have electrical lines passing underneath the street, he said.
Zeuli said Monday, Feb. 16, that he had asked B & B Electric to inspect all of the pole boxes in the downtown area.
The action was at least partially in response to a commenter on the Hudson Star-Observer Web site, www.hudsonstarobserver.com, who said the pole boxes should have ground-fault protection to safeguard against stray voltage.
Zeuli said he wasn’t sure if the pole box at Second and Locust lacked ground-fault protection or if the system failed.
“We’re checking into that. Absolutely, we are,” said the public works director. “B & B is going to go through all the pole boxes and take care of that.”
Zeuli said the pole boxes were installed many years ago. While they were designed for just street lighting, wires for traffic signals and decorative lighting have been added over the years, he said.
He said the dampness and temperature extremes in this part of the world, as well as salt and chemicals used to combat ice, can cause problems with electrical wiring.
“It’s kind of an eye-opening thing,” Zeuli said of the stray voltage that injured Hawkins’ dog. “We’re going to do whatever we have to to correct it and make sure that everything is grounded properly.”
He added that he intends to have pole boxes inspected regularly from now on.
Zeuli said he isn’t as concerned about in-ground streetlight wiring in other parts of the city. That wiring is newer and up to code, he said.
He said the city has been “pretty progressive” in replacing old streetlights. New streetlights were recently installed on Crest View Drive and Carmichael Road, and the downtown lights were replaced just a few years ago, he said.
Hawkins said Tuesday morning that Cady appears to have recovered well from the electrical shock.
“Without taking her out to the field pheasant hunting, or taking her out to the dock and seeing how far she can jump, she’s showing that she’s recovered pretty much 100 percent,” he said.
He added: “She was a little sketchy last week, but it seems like she’s got her aggression back. She’s running around and fetching and being like she used to.”
Hawkins said the big test of whether she is fully recovered will come when he has her bred.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to have her bred and have some puppies,” he said.
The veterinarian’s bill for Cady’s treatment after her injuries came to just under $400, according to Hawkins.
He said X-rays were taken of the dog’s heart and lungs, and an EKG machine was used to check her heart rhythm. The vet gave her morphine for her pain, and sent Hawkins home with prescriptions for another pain-killer and an antibiotic.
Hawkins said he gave the veterinarian bill to the city clerk’s office.
City Administrator Devin Willi said the bill has been forwarded to the city’s insurance company.
Hawkins said he doesn’t intend to sue the city unless Cady has long-term health problems or can’t give birth because of what happened.
“At this time, I’m just happy she’s alive,” he said. “If there is no reason to sue, why pursue a lawsuit?”
Hawkins said he has heard from people from all over the country as a result of news coverage of what happened to Cady.
“People I hadn’t talked to in five years were e-mailing me or calling me or texting me and saying, hopefully, Cady’s OK,” he said, “because everybody knows the dog.”
His prized Lab is a long-jumping competitor.
Hawkins has photos of Cady posted on his ReMax realty business Web site, www.blackdoghomz.com.