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Board of Adjustment Minutes 05/07/2008
MAY 7, 2008

Case #218-Beverly Paul seeking an Obnoxious Use under Article III, Section H. against the property & owner of Map 2 Lot 29, Yelena Levitina, pertaining to continual barking of Caucasian dogs and the safety of the neighborhood.  Property is located on Horse Corner Road.

Members Present:  Edward Meehan, Chairman; David Dobson; Stephen MacCleery, ex-offico; Ben Brown; Mark McIntosh; and Richard Millette, Alternate.
Voting:  Ed Meehan, David Dobson, Steve MacCleery, Ben Brown & Mark McIntosh.
Applicant:  Beverly Paul
Owner of Property:  Yelena Levitina
Public:  David Paul, Frank & Joyce Lemay, Paul & Kathryn Dandurand, Mike & Diana Eaton, Sam & Joyce Moore, Elizabeth Jenks, Sandra Millette, Gretchen Morse, Carol Hendee, Bill Stevens, Deborah Jordan, Ann Davis.

Beverly Paul is complaining about the 3-5 hours, at a time, of steady barking of Yelena’s dogs.  This breed is a Caucasian Ovcarkas from Russia.  She feels they are vicious; they attack people, cars and anything or anyone they don’t know.  She believes that Yelena has been running a kennel but has a MA telephone number.  There are about 30 dogs on the property, which a family member has visited with the pretense of purchasing one.  Mrs. Paul presented the board with a copy of the Caucasian Legend Kennel Application which asks numerous questions pertaining to the breed as being used for livestock & home protection and is naturally suspicious & aggressive toward strange dogs and people.  (On file)  The dogs are fed raw food.  The police have been called numerous times and have said they can only stop her if someone gets attacked.  She would like this taken care of before that happens.  The dogs bark anytime, day or night, for at least 5 hours.  They will stop for an hour or so but start back up again.  It is a very ferocious sounding bark.  In the middle of the night you hear snarling, growling barks.  No one is around on the property during the day.  Three towns in MA no longer will allow these dogs in their town.  From 2000-2003 attacks and complaints were filed in MA with an attack being made on a donkey.  
Mrs. Paul is frightened to go out in her yard.  She feels that the dog’s fence is not high enough to keep them in.  She as not seen the dogs loose as yet, but others have.  In MA Ms. Levitina had to have 3 fences at various heights around her property.  These dogs are similar to pack dogs.  They were brought into the US several years ago but are found to be an unstable breed.  They were bred to herd sheep but have been documented as fighting dogs against pit bulls.  Mrs. Paul feels she is training her dogs to attack.

David Paul-The barking sound like the dogs are tearing something apart.  These dogs are a one person dog.

Joyce Lemay-Lives next door and the police have told her to call them when the dogs barked for more than _ an hour.  The female officer who responded to one of the calls would not get out of the car when she came to investigate the barking.  She very rarely sees any activity going on at the house, no one coming or going.

Paul Dandurand-Live 4/10th of a mile away and for 1 _ years this has been a problem.  The barking is continual for hours.  5 acres of land on Yelena’s property have been clear cut so the noise barrier is gone.  You can’t sleep with the window open because of the continuous, loud barking.  Mr. Dandurand stated that he has never walked on foot by the property.

Frank Lemay-You can’t see the house from his property but the dogs have a keen sense of hearing.  Just opening up his grill cover will start them to barking for hours.  He feels that this is a business being run from her home.

Sandra Millette-At one time 3 dogs were loose and the police were called.  They were chased around the neighborhood for 3 hours.  The neighbors are afraid to go out of their own homes.

Sam Moore-Yelena’s house can be seen from his property and as soon as he goes outside the dogs start barking.  They bark in the middle of the night and have started up as early as 2 AM.

Joyce Moore-We all have expectations of privacy and safety in our homes.  She doesn’t go out for walks because she feels compromised.  She is constantly on alert.  She has become sensitized because they have heard the barking for so long.  They have gotten used to living in fear.

Deborah Jordan-Lives _ -3/4 a mile away and claims the non-ending barking is a nuisance.  She has gone to the property to confront the property owner and called the police numerous times.  You can’t hear the TV without turning it up louder than normal because of the barking.  She feels the neighborhood isn’t getting respect from the owner.  She as seen them loose on Horse Corner Road but not up as far as Staniels Road.

Ann Davis-In April the dogs would start barking around 8:30 AM and bark all afternoon.  The fear factor needs to be addressed and the safety of children in the area is a major concern.  We want a nice country atmosphere.  

Richard Millette-In March when the dogs got out they came out of the woods at him.  They did turn away but they were loose for several hours running in his back yard and up and down the road.  He didn’t realize how big they were until they came closer.  He lives _ mile from Yelena’s and you have to raise your voices to have a conversation and turn up the radio & TV when the dogs are continually barking.

Yelena Levitina addressed the board and stated that she moved to the area 3 years ago.  1 _ years ago she cleared the land for her farm.  The dogs are not vicious.  They will protect anyone that is in their care.  Once in the last 3 years the dogs have been loose for several hours.  The dogs are housed in sheds with a 6’ high fence.  She can’t hear the dogs barking in her house.  The dogs wear barking control collars when they are outside.  Her house is 500’ from Horse Corner Road and the dogs are in the back of the house.  She suggested putting noise meters on the property to detect the decibels.  These dogs are livestock working dogs.  Right now she has some sheep but plans to expand getting more sheep and goats.  She plans on raising meat & wool for sale.  The dogs go to public events as well as dog shows and are gentle with children.  The pictures she presented to the board are also on her website.

Yelena also presented the board with a copy of her website, Caucasian Legend Farm, two letters of recommendations from an out of state doctor & police officer as well as a copy of Title XLV Chapter 466 pertaining to dogs and cats.  She sited that RSA 466:31 states “If a dogs barks for sustained periods of more than _ hour, or during the night hours so as to disturb the peace and quiet of a neighborhood or area, not including a dog which is guarding, working, or herding livestock, as defined in RSA 21:34-a, II(a)(4), pertaining to dogs being a menace, nuisance or vicious.

Two to three days a week Yelena is away from home from 8 AM – 6:30 PM and she is home almost every single night.  Once is April she came home later than normal and the dogs were barking but she took care of them.  They will bark when someone comes to the property.  They don’t bark for hours and do not bark at night.  They are locked up at night in sheds inside her home and in crates in the garage.  Only a few dogs are out at night with the livestock but they wear bark collars.  They will only bark if someone or something disturbs them.  She has invited the neighbors to call her for an introduction to the dogs.  

She has never had 30 dogs on her property and at present has 18 dogs.  She will be placing several dogs in other homes shortly.  She claims that she would not allow the dogs to bark for hours on end.  There are other dogs in the area as well and when they bark hers would start up as well.  She would then put a stronger bark collar on them.  Yelena feels she gets blamed for every bark in the neighborhood.

Yelena has had 4 litters in the last 4 years and sold 1-2 from each litter.  The application she has is designed to make people really think if they want a dog of this type & breed.  This spring, when the dogs got out, the gate was blocked with snow which melted quickly and allowed the gate to stay open before she realized it.  The gate is secured with latches which you need two hands to open.

Judy Arnold-Yelena gave her a dog which is just delightful.  Other dogs have been given away as well.  Once, while visiting Yelena, they heard a dog in the neighborhood barking and a short while later the police arrived for a barking complaint but it was not one of her dogs.  She is disturbed that the neighbors are calling the police and not the owner about any complaints.  This is a rural community.  The barking never goes on for more than five minutes because she can’t stand it.

Yelena & Judy brought two dogs for the board to see.  Some of the board members went outside to observe the dogs.

Ben Brown asked if any police reports were available for the board to review.

Steve MacCleery said there were written reports that the PD should have but the Selectmen don’t have a copy of them at this time.  Steve called the PD and left a message that the BOA would like a copy of all reports pertaining to this matter.

It was suggested that the board make a site visit to the property.

With the concerns & complaints from neighbors and the police visiting the property several times, what good would a site visit do?

The BOA wanted to know if this was considered a business as far as the Selectmen were concerned.  Steve said that a letter was sent to Ms. Levitina encouraging her to go to the PB for a home occupation.

There is wording about businesses being obnoxious in the zoning.  The complaint this evening is an obnoxious use complaint.  There has been no testimony that an illegal business is being run.

Members would like to hear from the PD-what was the result of their visits to the property, what was done, what was the outcome, etc.  The main issue is the barking.
On the application there are a lot of questions with “are you aware” pertaining to the nature of this breed being suspicious and aggressive.  There seems to be several safety questions on the application as well.  The neighbors feel threatened and don’t feel comfortable being outside.  The applicant had a different view point than the neighbors did.

Ben Brown would like more objective comments.  He was not ready to vote without more written documentation from the PD and/or Selectmen.  Other members were in agreement.

Steve MacCleery had concerns with excess dogs on the property that are not guarding animals when she wants to use RSA 466 as a defense.

Ed Meehan was not as concerned about the livestock issue as he was about the barking for hours on end.

Ben Brown moved to reconvene this public hearing on 5/28/08 at 7:00 PM for the purpose of obtaining Police Dept. and public records concerning this case.  Mark McIntosh seconded.

David Dobson – Yes
Steve MacCleery – Yes
Ed Meehan – Yes
Ben Brown – Yes
Mark McIntosh – Yes
Motion carries 5-0.

Respectfully submitted,

Holly MacCleery, Secretary

Edward Meehan, Chairman
Chichester Board of Adjustment

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