HALIFAX– 25 people signed a petition triggering a Section 137C hearing at Tuesday’s Selectmen’s meeting for Jennifer Choate, proprietor of Tarawood Kennel, yet only a half-dozen or so who signed came to the fact-finding portion of the hearing. Of those present, many who spoke were not even neighbors or abutters to the kennel, which is accused of allowing dogs to excessively bark and dogs to apparently wander.
Choate had dozens of supporters with her, a lawyer, and an MIT-trained acoustical engineer. The atmosphere was “court-like” with the hearing being held in the Great Hall of Town Hall, but the “information” gathering was incongruous. While clearly there were passionate opinions on both sides, there was little in the way of factual information collected.
One woman said that she was a dog trainer for 21 years, and that is why she signed the petition. She was opposed to the “bark-collars” used for training at Tarawood, that provide an electric jolt, similar to the ones used in “invisible fences”, to train dogs not to bark. This woman said she didn’t believe they are humane as they can cause the dogs to “yelp”. They are legal.
Ms. Choate’s lawyer objected and said that the hearing was supposed to be about barking and wandering. Selectmen Chairman Troy Garron wanted to hear from everyone, though, and others were allowed to speak, off-topic or not.
Lisa Thorpe signed the petition because she had purchased an aggressive dog from Choate in 2010 and had to return it, “fearing I had a lawsuit on my hands.”
Linda Ford knows some of the neighbors, and said she didn’t feel it right to have 100 dog kennels (although Choate’s separate request for an increase in her license from 50 to 100 dogs is not on the table at the moment). She expressed her “shock” that a kennel would be allowed “near neighbors”.
Two people who expressed vague concern for the dogs’ welfare, had signed the petition but were apparently not familiar with Tarawood Kennel.
Two neighbors, Scott Clawson and his son, both stated that they felt the conditions for the dogs were poor because they were put outside for part of the day in the winter. “Seeing dogs out in the snow makes me want to go and hug my dog,” said Sean Clawson. “All of our customers are animal lovers, and they all question what is going on [at Tarawood Kennel],” he continued, referring again to the bark collars.
Only one neighbor could recall any recent incident of dogs getting loose, which he described as a pack of dogs, not just one or two. Others recalled dogs getting through a fence several years ago.
Yet for all the concern of the dogs’ “well-being”, when actual neighbors were asked by Selectman Kim Roy, who had a lengthy questionnaire, what they wanted to see at the end of the hearing process, was an end to hearing the dogs barking.
The board also heard from the former sound abatement officer at Logan Airport and MIT-trained acoustical engineer Nancy Timmerman about solutions to reduce the barking noise.
She suggested reinforcing or building a new six-foot tall fence with sound reducing material on it for the outdoor areas where dogs are kept during the day.
“The dogs will bark,” Timmerman said. She went on to describe how she is trying to make things better for the two closest neighbors.
“Thanks for being honest about that,” said Roy.
Choate’s attorney showed a video of what he saw when on the property, which did not show excessive barking.
Both Choate and her supporters were allowed to respond to the accusations, and Roy had lengthy questions for them as well.
The hearing was continued.
In other news:
• Maureen Rogers, who served on the Wage and Personnel Board for a number of years along with being on the Town’s 250th anniversary committee and several “Halifax in Lights” committees, passed away Friday, August 5.
• Robert Baker, current Library Trustee and former School Committee and Planning Board member, passed away on Monday, August 8.
• The board will next meet on Tuesday, August 23, at 7:30 p.m.