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War between neighbors spills into Selectmen's meeting

Date: 11/24/2008

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM A barking dog was the catalyst for a fight between neighbors in front of the Board of Selectmen last Monday evening.

Daphne, the dog owned by Fred and Rachel Gore of Railroad Avenue, has officially been complained about on three separate occasions by neighbor James Emerson, and the Gore family has been cited twice for Daphne's excessive barking.

According to the town ordinance concerning vicious and nuisance dogs, complaints and enforcement, "disturbing the reasonable quiet of the neighborhood by barking, howling or other dog noises for more than 10 minutes in any half hour overnight between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. or for more than 15 minutes in any hour during the day between the hours of 7:01 a.m. and 9:59 p.m." will result in a first offense fine of $25, a second offense fine of $50 and third and every subsequent offense fines of $75.

Since the issue of the barking dog could not be settled between the neighbors, Animal Control/Dog Officer Michael Masley suggested the Gores and the Emersons go before the Board of Selectmen to figure out what the next step should be.

Emerson was given the chance to explain his side of the story first, and opened by telling a story about his wife who lived and worked on a farm, who never failed to obey the rules, and who, "at age 14, showed more maturity than the two of you [the Gores]."

The selectmen told Emerson to refrain from personal attacks.

The complaint filer explained that he and the Gores became neighbors in 2002 but soon were not on speaking terms because they "did nothing to quell the dogs' barking hour after hour."

Their fight escalated from there, with car alarms being intentionally set off late at night. While this was a continued issue between them, the selectmen asked that Emerson stay on topic with the dog's barking.

Emerson spoke about the most recent incident with the dog, which was excessive barking on Oct. 23. The Gores received a second citation for this complaint. Emerson said Daphne had been outside barking for 65 minutes.

"Patience and tolerance are a virtue, but they are finite," he told the Board of Selectmen. He added, "We don't want the dog taken away the dog is not the problem."

Patrick Brady, the board's chair, then asked the Gores to tell their side. Rachel Gore served as the spokesperson for her family. She explained that a babysitter was home the evening of Oct. 23 and that the dog was outside for 20 minutes at the most and most likely provoked by a fisher cat into barking.

"I never leave my dog outside unattended because we do live near railroad tracks," she said.

Rachel commented that Emerson was the only neighbor that had problems with her family and that "the year we weren't talking was great."

She and her husband will be contesting the second citation in Palmer District Court and since the last citation have placed a bark control collar on Daphne.

She added that if the dog is outside, it is never for more than 30 minutes at the most.

"It seems like if it wasn't the dog, it would be something else [for Emerson to complain about]," Rachel stated.

"There's much more going on here than the dog," Selectman James Thompson said. He also noted that the number of times police officers have been called to the neighbors' homes "has got to stop."

Masley said the Gores contested their first citation on Aug. 26 and by Aug. 28 he had received another complaint, but it was never formally filed.

"If you write a couple of tickets and that doesn't solve [the problem], something more must be done," he said.

Masley noted that Daphne is not a public safety threat.

Thompson asked the dog officer how effective a muzzle would be on the dog. Masley replied that one would be "relatively effective." He offered to show the Gores how to properly place the muzzle on the dog.

"With dog ownership comes responsibility," Thompson told the Gore family. "It doesn't matter if it [the barking] doesn't bother other neighbors, it matters if it bothers one."

Rachel was so frustrated by this point that she said her family "was getting out of this town" and left the hearing room in tears.

Brady explained that if there is another complaint, the Emersons and the Gores will have to come before the Board of Selectmen again. The board unanimously approved a motion to have the dog muzzled.