Casco Village dogs’ owner speaks up about ordinance

CASCO CANINE ORDINANCE causes heartache for homeowners. (From left to right) Brandon Green is sitting next to Domino; 12-year-old Delanie has a dachshund named Gracie on her lap; and Stephanie is holding Munchie. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — A woman, who has been told that she must reduce the number of dogs she has or face hefty fines for violating a town ordinance, said that the situation has disrupted the harmony of her family’s life at their home in the Casco Village.

In fact, she is on edge every time someone comes to the door for fear they will take away her dogs without her permission. At night, she worries how she will ever pay the fines or if the town will put a lien on her home if she doesn’t pay.

Stephanie Green said animal rescue has been a way of life for her family. So, she knows that laws regarding dogs vary from state to state, from town to town.

That is why, in November 2016, before purchasing the seller-financed property in Casco, she double-checked — even triple-checked with staff at the Casco Town Hall to make certain she was allowed to do the animal rescue work she had been doing in New Hampshire. That includes quarantining dogs brought from other states and caring for foster dogs until someone adopts them. Her nonprofit business is called Homes for Happy Dogs.

She was told it was okay by two employees and also by the animal control officer at the time.

Additionally, in 2016, Green was paying for the dog licenses for the eight canines her family owned at the time. She needed to know for certain that having that many dogs was allowable.

“I was told that the town did not have any ordinances that would prevent me from rescuing and having my dogs,” Green said. “My rescue service has been inspected by the state twice and we have all of our licensing in order. After confirming with the town that we were free to move ahead, we felt safe to take our life savings and purchase our new home.”

Green went forward with the seller-financed purchase of the home in the Village. Her home is next to the parking lot of Casco Variety, right on Meadow Road (Route 121).

“I wanted to live in a New England town. I wanted my daughter to be able to ride her bike with her friends in the village, to have my daughter go to high school here and have her graduation party in this big house,” she said. “I am here to be a good citizen, to enjoy my life, and be happy. Instead, I ended up getting into trouble for a kennel I don’t even have.”

Green has received three official letters from the Town of Casco; and this has happened over the course of less than one year.

What concerns her is that the kennel ordinance is not included under ordinances having to do with dogs.

Essentially, a kennel is defined as more than three dogs and more than six cats. To boot, a kennel is not an allowed use in the Village District, not in the residential zone.

“On July 31, 2017, we received our first letter from the Town of Casco. I immediately called Alex Sirois, Casco’s code enforcement officer, and Jessica Jackson, the current ACO. Both agreed that they never knew about the ordinance, but that I should address the board of selectmen to speak with them,” Green said.

In response to that first letter, the family parted with two of their pets.

“Shortly thereafter, in a good faith effort responding to the CEO’s letter, we made the heartbreaking decision to re-home our beloved Basset, Hannah, and our terrified rescue, Kenny,” Green said.

“On Sept. 12, 2017, we received our second mailing from the office of the CEO via certified mail. It was titled: ‘Stop work order — notice of violation.’ I immediately called the CEO Alex Sirois, and was told to ignore the letter until it went in front of the board of selectmen,” she said.

In response to that notice, the family put on hold any work involving Homes for Happy Dogs, she said.

“We made the painful decision to stop our rescue service, in a further good faith effort to appease the town,” she said.

Also, after the second letter dated Sept. 12, Green and her husband Brandon were told they would be on the selectmen’s agenda along with ACO Jackson. But, that didn’t happen; and they did not get to tell the selectmen their side of the story.

The most recent notice of violation letter was mailed on June 19. The ordinance violation – having a kennel in the Village District – was discussed at the selectmen’s meeting on June 19.

Green received the letter on June 21.

“To date, we have made several good faith efforts to appease the town. We have already re-homed two of our beloved pets, and stopped our rescue service. We now have six dogs that are all registered, legal and licensed. We are unable to further reduce our family,” she said.

She talked about bringing the dogs to the upcoming selectmen’s meeting on July 10, and asking them to decide which ones the family should get rid of.

She hopes that the selectmen will give her grandfather rights since the town was in error for giving her the wrong information when she asked about ordinances involving canines.

“Animal Control told me there is no law saying the amount of dogs I can have. The law is in the zoning ordinances. You cannot have a kennel in the residential zone in the Village District,” she said.

Another solution might be to change the zoning for her property from residential to commercial since her lot is already next to a business.

She personally knows people who have more than two dogs or multiple cats and live in the Village. According to the ordinance’s definition of a kennel, those people would be in violation of the ordinance, too, she said.

“This would affect everyone in the Village. This law – they didn’t know it was on the books,” she said.

The most recent letter has impacted the family, she said.

“My daughter cried all night because she thinks we are going to have to re-home more of her pets or move our family, if we don’t. Living in fear of losing our beloved pets has been hanging over our heads since shortly after we moved here,” Green said. “We love our home and our daughter is settled and happy. We spent every last penny we had to buy this home. It is not right that the town does not stand by what they told me before we made the decision to move and buy our home.”

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