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.