Woman threatens to sue to keep 10 dogs under one roof

Staff Writer
Published: 7/2/2019 10:24:36 PM

ORANGE — Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof.

Orange’s dog law is pretty straightforward. People can have up to four dogs and they must be registered with the town — and if they are going to run a kenneling or dog-training business, they need proper licensure.

But a woman threatened to sue — or have the U.S. Department of Justice sue — the town last week after she was told to abide by those rules.

With 10 dogs under one roof, none of them properly registered, a dog-training business operating without a license and multiple complaints from neighbors, a public hearing was held for Katrina Jablonsky of 24 Mechanic St. last week, in which she asked for a “reasonable accommodation” regarding the dogs.

Specifically, the “no compliance” meeting was for Parker, Sassafras, Yuki, Tilly, Pinky Pie, Ace, Jack, Phoenix, Charlie, Dash and Spike — and apparently some other dogs, too, but even the Selectboard was confused about which dogs are where. The meeting started with the presumption of 13 dogs being held in one apartment unit, and, after some back and forth, ended with the understanding 10 dogs are under one roof — seven in one unit, three in the other. Two other dogs were mentioned in the meeting that were to stay at the house only temporarily.

“So, I’m asking for the board to give us a reasonable accommodation to keep my service dogs and our extra dogs,” Jablonsky said. “We have three extra dogs that are being trained as service dogs so they are only temporary residents until they finish their training, but my roommate also has her emotional support dog.”

Animal Control Officer Jennifer Arsenault said she has had multiple complaints from neighbors regarding barking and odor. Neighbors who attended the public hearing spilled into the hallway, and several of them told the Selectboard their grievances.

“The only complaints I have are the barking and the slab out there that smells,” neighbor Doug Soucie said, mentioning the smell of feces has become worse since the weather has gotten hotter.

Another neighbor, Deborah Maillet, said she shares a driveway with Jablonsky and is concerned if she were to try to sell the house, potential buyers would be turned off by the number of dogs.

“I don’t know where they do the training. I never see anybody outside with them,” Maillet said. “Just the way the dogs act, it’s hard to believe that they are training to be service dogs.”

Arsenault said she could fine Jablonsky $50 per day for each unregistered dog, and fine her per dog per day for any dogs that exceed the limit of four. She also said the house is not zoned for a kennel business.

Arsenault said she could have enforced the law already, but wanted to give Jablonsky “a chance to follow the law.” But even after warning Jablonsky, Arsenault said new dogs had arrived at the property.

“The next time I went back, she had rehomed two dogs and then got two more, still totaling 10 dogs,” Arsenault said.

The Selectboard resolved to support Arsenault in enforcing the law. Arsenault said she will give Jablonsky a reasonable amount of time to find homes for the extra dogs and provide proof to the town that they are indeed in new homes.

“The fact is we have zoning that limits to four dogs, and we have a requirement for a license if you’re running a business,” Selectboard Vice Chairwoman Jane Peirce said. “I still haven’t figured out all the dogs here. If they’re truly service dogs, I think it would be an interesting debate on another day, but it’s not really relevant here.”

The Selectboard also said that, since the house’s upstairs section is technically a separate apartment for Jablonsky’s mother, Jablonsky would be able to move some upstairs — in other words, keep four dogs in each apartment, totaling eight. Two dogs still have to go.

“I don’t believe it’s healthy in close quarters for the animals regardless of whether they’re service dogs or not,” Selectman Bill Wrigley said. “Multiple service dogs in apartments in small square footage is not healthy. Animals in cages are not healthy. Humans don’t react well in close quarters over time.”

But Jablonsky said the dogs should not count against any limit if they are service dogs, and that she would file a complaint with the Department of Justice and sue if the Selectboard did not rule in her favor.

“Exceptions must be considered when the animal is related to a disability,” Jablonsky said.

Wrigley said one service dog per person is likely enough, and if Jablonsky disagrees with the Selectboard’s ruling, she should go ahead and sue.

“We get sued all the time by the way,” Wrigley said. “I always tell anybody who says they’re going to sue, ‘Please, if you think it’s in your best interest to sue and you’re being mistreated or unfairly treated … then that’s your best approach.’”

“I don’t have to sue, the government does it for me,” Jablonsky responded.

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.

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