HALIFAX – Selectmen Tuesday night ordered Jennifer Choate, owner of Tarawood Kennels, 7 Plymouth St., Halifax, to reduce her adult dog population from the 50 she is now licensed for to 25 adult dogs on the premises.
Selectman Kim Roy, who was charged by her board to investigate the numerous complaints from neighbors about excessive barking, spoke for more than an hour about the history of complaints to the board, the first from 2010 and the remedial steps which were promised and never completed through Tuesday of this week.
Roy said that she and Animal Control Officer Noreen Callahan made an official visit to Tarawood Kennel on Tuesday, the day of the hearing, to see if progress had been made on noise abatement, and to count the number of dogs present. ACO Callahan found it difficult to get an accurate count as the dogs weren’t tagged individually.
When asked how many dogs were present, Choate replied she wasn’t sure. When asked how many litters of puppies were on premises, she answered two. Roy opened the door to another room and found another litter. Choate appeared to have no idea how many dogs were in her kennel or kennel offices.
Roy read a damning letter into the minutes of the hearing from a former Tarawood kennel manager, who swore to its truthfulness and signed it. Choate refuted its veracity.
Another ongoing concern Roy had was for the condition of the crates which housed the dogs, stating that most were chewed, with sharp edges, providing potential danger to the animals.
In some areas, dog enclosures were left open to the weather: sun, rain, or snow, and Ms. Choate was asked to provide some kind of shelter for them. When Roy and Callahan made their visit on Tuesday, temporary tarps had been strung over the crates to provide a sort of shelter. Soundproofing material which had been promised over the years had not yet been installed, nor had it been purchased to be installed.
Selectman Tom Millias told Ms. Choate that the problems seemed to occur after she increased the number of dogs through a special permit approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals from 15 dogs to 23, and then to 50.
The board was shocked to learn that she had yet another revision to her license before the ZBA asking to increase the number of dogs allowed to 100, and with an unlimited number of litters of puppies allowed!
Millias said he didn’t see how she could manage that number of dogs and obviously couldn’t, with the increased complaints of neighbors.
Roy played several recordings of dogs barking which she made from a neighbor’s yard at various times of the night, early morning, and during the day. “I wouldn’t want to live next door to that,” Roy said.
Selectmen gave Choate 45 days to comply with the reduction order, to find homes or places for the additional dogs, and limited the number of litters of puppies she could raise to 12 per year.
Selectmen Chairman Troy Garron, a known animal lover on the board, told Ms. Choate that the barking problem is hers to solve; it is not up to selectmen to tell her how to solve it.
The board asked ACO Callahan to check on the progress of the reduction of dogs and report back to selectmen.
Selectmen will next meet on Tuesday, Oct. 11.