Trouble has followed Tarawood Kennels from Halifax to New Hampshire where three dozen dogs and puppies have died in two separate fires in the past three weeks in Bristol, NH.
The first fire at the facility on Nov. 22, property that had been owned by Bobbie Choate’s step-father, Oley Firth, killed two adult dogs and five puppies. The fire appears to have been caused by a heat lamp that had been knocked over. Although the cause is listed as “still under investigation”.
The alarm was called in at 4:28 a.m. Bristol FD arrived on scene eight minutes later at 4:36 a.m. Initial observation of the 90 Chestnut St. property showed the fire spreading outside the building to the second floor.
The homeowner was located removing a dog from the walkout basement. She told firefighters that she was the only one at the residence and she was fine.
The last unit cleared the scene almost five hours later at 9:35 a.m. According to the report, the fire originated in a common room or den of the 1 ½ story cottage. The cause of the fire remains undetermined and is under investigation. Loss due to the Nov. 22 fire is estimated to be $165,000.
The latest fire on Wednesday, Dec. 13, burned an outbuilding on the property, killing 3 adult dogs and 26 puppies. The nine dogs housed in the burned cottage survived.
The alarm came in at 7:45 a.m. Dec. 13, with Bristol FD on the scene four minutes later at 7:49 a.m. Firefighters had been alerted that there were dogs in the building and once the fire had been knocked down, two closed-top kennels were observed with an adult dog and puppies in each, and an open top kennel with multiple puppies but no adult. The adult dog was later found under debris just inside the front door.
Bristol police were notified and obtained warrants.
New Hampshire’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals took the surviving dogs into their care, and two SPCA workers took custody of the bodies of the deceased dogs and puppies.
The surviving dogs remain in the care of the SPCA according to communications liaison Sheila Ryan.
It remains to be seen when and whether they will be returned to Choate, who also is known by the name Bobbie Harmon. The property ownership is listed to Bobbie Harlfinger on Bristol, NH, real estate records.
The process determining the fate of the dogs, according to Ryan, could be lengthy, with an expedited hearing expected to review the case and determine if the animals should be returned to Choate or placed for adoption. Then Choate would have the right to appeal. “It could be months,” Ryan said.
Choate and her Tarawood Kennels on Plymouth St., Halifax, near the Plympton town line, were the subject of much concern. As her operation grew, and the number of dogs her permit allowed was increased, Halifax neighbors complained, citing the increased noise level of dogs continually barking at all hours. Choate, also known as Jennifer Harmon, had applied to the Halifax Zoning Board of Appeals to increase the number of dogs at her kennel to 100 with unlimited litters of puppies. That application was later withdrawn.
Halifax selectman Kim Roy made several trips to the Tarawood Kennels property to record the noise from the dogs and replayed it at one of several hearings. That, in addition to other evidence presented, caused selectmen to vote to limit the number of dogs allowed at the property to 25, and permit only six litters of puppies per year.
Choate was not happy with the decision and expressed her displeasure at the hearing.
At a subsequent July 25 hearing to answer a dog bite incident at the kennel, Choate told selectmen that the Halifax property had been sold and the kennel operation would shut down August 10. Choate told selectmen she was moving her kennel operations to New Hampshire after closing Halifax. At that time she told selectmen she was also moving a 30-horse facility to New Hampshire.
New Hampshire, according to SPCA representative Ryan, doesn’t require a breeder’s license for operations that produce less than 50 puppies per year. She also said that the SPCA is encouraging legislation that would put stronger regulations in place to protect the animals.