Residents riled over Casco law limiting number of dogs

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO – A notice of an ordinance violation served by the Town of Casco to a family who owns more than two dogs in the Village District has sparked a wildfire of worry among animal owners in this town.

Casco Animal Control Officer (ACO) Jessica Jackson spoke to the selectmen to explain that the family’s multiple dogs did not create a barking nuisance, and that “the barking dog complaints were 100% unfounded.”

There had been three barking dog complaints in the past two years, but the bigger issue is how many dogs are allowed before a residence is considered a kennel, she said. Having a kennel – more than two dogs – in the Village district is what the family is being cited for.

Jackson talked about the ripple effect after the ordinance got into the limelight.

“I am getting calls from people who are worried about losing their animals. They said they won’t license their dogs,” Jackson said. “If I go license three or five dogs in the Village or in a residential zone, am I to turn a blind eye? I am sworn to uphold the town’s ordinances.”

“Going forward, this is going to be a problem for the animal control office,” Jackson said. “It isn’t just for dogs, it includes multiple cats.”

Former Casco ACO Lynne Fracassi also spoke on the issue.

“There are hundreds of people in Casco who have more than three dogs. So many people these days have more than two dogs. I believe the ordinance should be changed,” Fracassi said.

Stephanie Green is the Casco resident who received the notice of violation. Since then, she has discontinued a dog rescue service called Homes for Happy Dogs. Also, she ‘re-homed’ two dogs. Now, six dogs remain as their family pets.

On Tuesday, the Casco Board of Selectmen offered to enter into a consent agreement that would allow the Green family to keep their six dogs. However, when each dog lives out its lifespan, they would not be able to adopt a new dog. The consent agreement would permit the family pets to stay, but eventually the Greens would have no more than two dogs – to keep in line with the ordinance.

“We are looking at letting them keep their pets, and not be in the business of kenneling,” Chairman Holly Hancock said.

Green turned down the consent agreement, saying the ordinance needed to be changed so other people would not end up in the same situation as her.

Chairman Holly Hancock said the board could only deal with this infraction on a case-by-case basis.

Green said the town should be held responsible for giving her the wrong information.

“Your office didn’t know the law existed,” she said.

The former ACO Fracassi as well as the town’s deputy clerk had been asked by Green in 2016 if there were any ordinances that would prevent her from running her rescue and having multiple dogs. She was told that it would be fine. This was later confirmed by Fracassi.

Additionally, Green did not want to be the poster child for violating an ordinance that many residents do not even know they are breaking. There should be a fair playing field, she said.

“This needs to be reviewed for everybody. You don’t have anything preventing the number of dogs under animal ordinances. They aren’t going to look at the zoning ordinances. This will effect anyone in the Village or residential,” she said.

Green said that she did not want to sign something that locked her in.

At one point, the selectmen put forward the idea of holding a future workshop on the topic.

Essentially, as pointed out by Code Enforcement Officer Alex Sirois, the problem lies in the definition of kennel. A kennel is defined as two dogs or more; and it is not an allowable use in residential zones including the Village District.

“This is really just a definition. The ordinance is the allowed uses in the Village. Because the definition of kennel is any more than two dogs as you think about the ordinance, change the definition of a kennel,” Sirois said.

After Green said she had no intention of signing a consent agreement, Sirois asked for direction from the board and indicated that the consent-decree paperwork could still be drafted.

While the agenda item was on the floor, Village resident and neighbor Trevor Tidd said he had complained about the dogs and investigated the Green’s yard and also the Facebook page for the rescue service.

Another resident, Christina Carrier was shocked that people would be limited to two dogs. She wondered what would happen when her son comes home with his service dog. She said Americans have become a dog-loving society with dogs being part of the family and it was strange for a town to limit people to two dogs.

Also, Green and Hancock exchanged some words.

Hancock asked if Green was happy with the consent agreement, with being allowed to keep her six dogs.

“I am not happy with the agreement. I am not just in it for me. Now, this is something that is going to effect the whole town,” Green said.

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