Dog owner ordered to remove dogs, pay damages

FARMINGTON — A Farmington woman was ordered to stop the noise of her 17 sled dogs within 45 days and pay $5,000 in damages for emotional distress to her neighbors Friday in Franklin County Superior Court.

David and Jamie Lucas of Whittier Road filed the lawsuit against neighbor Jean Perron after a year of sleepless nights, their attorney David Sanders said. They also asked for $10,000 in damages to help with legal costs.

The only way to stop the noise is to order the dogs be removed from the property, Justice Michaela Murphy said, while urging Perron to remove them before the start of school for the sake of the children involved.

Representing herself, Perron told the court she leased the property, located approximately 100 feet from the Lucas home, with the intent to buy but has decided not to and is currently seeking another home.

Over the past year, she has faced several civil violations as neighbors attempted to deal with the barking brood. Farmington voters adopted a dog barking ordinance this spring after the Lucases initiated it as a means to help deal with the situation.

In a hand-written letter, Perron previously asked the court to set aside the lawsuit.

“The anxiety and hardships that this lawsuit and continued civil summons (for barking dogs) has caused a great deal of stress for my family. I am forced to relocate due to the loss of home insurance (caused by the lawsuit)," she wrote.

She opposed the lawsuit, stating, “I believe the Lucases are pursuing a frivolous lawsuit. I believe this is a barking ordinance issue to be handled in district court.”

Murphy denied the request, stating that Perron, who admitted to losing track of time to oppose the lawsuit, failed to “establish good cause” to set it aside.

The Lucases have lived in their Whittier Road home for about four years. Last summer Perron and her family moved into the house next door and started creating outside kennels for 20 sled-racing dogs. She is licensed with the town for two kennels, she said.

Being dog lovers themselves, they didn‘t realize how life would change, David Lucas told the court.

“We didn’t know what to expect. Within a week, we knew we were in trouble,” he said, after playing a digital recording of the dogs barking earlier this summer at several points throughout the night. The tape, created by a small digital recorder placed in his bedroom window, was shortened but not enhanced, he said.

“How many nights have we been able to sleep through? Not many, just a handful,” he said of the past year.

The interrupted sleep and daytime barking has created stress on the family and limited the use of their backyard, causing the couple to think about selling their own home. But who would buy their house?, he said.

“We feel like we’re running on fumes all the time,” Jamie Lucas explained, about the lack of sleep. She said she wanted quiet, sleep and peace of home brought back.

“I want relief from the noise,” she said.

Last year, Perron asked real estate agent Rebecca Webster to find a house near the high school but not near neighbors because her dogs bark, Webster testified.

She was surprised when Perron took the Whittier Road house because the two houses are on top of each other and she felt it would be really hard for the neighbors, she said.

Another neighbor, Thomas Taylor, who lives a quarter mile from Perron, moved there for the quiet environment, but he hears the dogs when he goes for his newspaper around 5:30 a.m. and in the evening, he said.

Perron questioned how he knew it was her dogs and not the total of 10 dogs owned by three other families with homes near her.

Perron’s only witness, her daughter Jillian, an honor student who is active in sports, told the court she understands the need for sleep with her busy schedule, but that from within their house the dogs don’t interfere.

Her family life has changed though, as someone always has to be home for the dogs, and she and her mother spend free time trying to exercise the dogs to tire them for the night.

They have looked at several homes, maybe 50, and their home is currently full of boxes, ready to move, she said.

 abryant@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

Supposed to say I am on the Lucas family's side.

See above. Couldn't go in and edit even though there is a button to do so.

 's picture

I am on the Lucas family

It is crazy to be disturbed that much by barking dogs and she should not have been allowed to kennel that many dogs in a residential location. Just one dog barking at all hours of the night is enough to drive you crazy, can't even imagine what it must be like to live next door to this nightmare!

 's picture

The sad thing about "sled dogs" is...

...that many of them don't have much of a home life.

By nature, a dog needs a pack. When you separate them all into individual kennels, they will bark. When you have them in the back yard, all tethered to their individual tie-outs, unable to socialize normally, they will bark. On the flip side of that coin, if they are burning up all their energy running around in a huge pen socializing with the other dogs... they might not have all that get-up-and-go when it's time to work. Also, most are also not spayed and/or neutered, because a good puller or racer may produce good pups. When you have a female in heat, you need to keep her separate. The males will raise hell to get to her. An outdoor kennel can get very noisy. It's safe to say, sled dogs are generally more often kept as livestock rather than as pets (not saying that this particular owner treats their dogs this way... I have no personal knowledge of this particular owner). When kenneled, they have a lot of pent up energy, and they will bark... a lot.

As to "how do you know" it's the sled dogs and not the neighbors dogs? Ha. Are your sled dogs huskies or hounds? If they are, there is a very distinct difference. They don't just bark, they howl. There is also a huge difference between the sound of one or two dogs barking at one or two dogs in the next yard over... and a whole pack of sled dogs in one yard barking at once.

Years ago I was involved with an organization that took in the homeless huskies and sled dogs, helped them with their house manners, and found them new homes. I had a 20x50 enclosure in the back yard. At times, I had as many as 12 dogs. We didn't tolerate senseless barking. If one of the "kids" barked incessantly, it obviously needed something, and we'd figure out what it took to quiet our motormouth :) They would howl when the fire engines went by, but I never had one noise complaint from my neighbors.

It can be done, but it's a lot of work.

 's picture

Barking Dogs

When we lives in Wales, there was a neighbor who had several dogs in her kennel. The dogs barked all night and day! But town officials wouldn't do anything!!!! She was so rude and uncaring. We moved from there 11 years ago. We will never move to a place near a kennel or a place with several dogs. We have dogs, and we are considerate of our neighbors. I understand that dogs do bark...it's their own way of communicating. But our know that they will be stopped if it gets out of hand.
Perron needs to have her dogs trained and not only for the sleds. I feel for the Lucas' - I hope the courts do the right thing for them.

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