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Neighbor From Hell is Leaving - May be Moving in Next Door to You

Taftville Residents Fear Neighborhood Going To The Dogs

The Day - New London, Connecticut - Written by the Day Staff Writer, East Lyme, Salem - November 20, 2004

Norwich - It started when Lady Blue gave birth to eight howling puppies in June. Residents of a Taftville neighborhood are now fighting to get rid of the dogs and protect their sanity and property values.

Neighbors of Tony Shaw, Lady Blue's owner, began logging how often the dogs howled - 93 hours over three months was the count. Their calls to the police have resulted in at least five violations for excessive barking and roaming dogs since the end of August, police Sgt. William Molis said.

"We're not home that much, and this is how much howling we've logged," said Michelle Dunlap, a professor of human development at Connecticut College and the head of the Germania Avenue neighborhood watch group. "I don't think anyone should have to live like this."

Shaw, who lives on Germania Avenue, also was violating a zoning ordinance that regulates how many dogs a property owner can have, so he has had to split up his dog family.

For about four years, Shaw, a firefighter with the Taftville Volunteer Fire Dept. and a retired Navy corrections officer, has been raising and showing his Bluetick Coonhounds - medium-sized dogs with short, spotted fur, wiry tails and a howl that could scare a wolf. He has raised two champion show dogs.

In the summer of 2003, neighbors began complaining about the howls. At first, they said, the relationship between them and Shaw was friendly. Their children would play together, and Shaw made attempts to quiet the five adult dogs living in the house. He purchased bark collars that shocked the dogs when they made noise. That quieted them for almost a year until Lady Blue's romance resulted in an additional eight dogs on June 18.

"Yes, I wanted to have puppies, but not right at that time," said Shaw, a stout man with a trimmed mustache and long hair he brags has not been cut since he left the Navy in February.

Still, he was proud of the new pups, displaying pictures of himself assisting in the delivery at 2 a.m. He can mimic almost identically the unique howls of each of his dogs.

"I like this one because she looks so much like her mom," he said of Peanut, the smallest and most playful of the litter.

Shaw built a kennel in his back yard, adjacent to Dunlap's bedroom, that housed the puppies, Blue and another female.

"You think, 'I've got this night to relax, or I've got this Saturday, I'm just going to grade papers,' " said Dunlap, who owns a Labrador mix. "Then, out of the blue, the howling begins."

The puppies were too young to wear bark collars, and if they were crying or barking, the other dogs ignored the shock from the collar to howl with them. When all the dogs were howling together, the noise was disturbing neighbors across the street and around the block.

The police were called. Norwich zoning rules prevent a kennel on less than five acres. Shaw has about one-fourth of an acre, so he had to dismantle the cage.

The rules also forbid more than three adult dogs living in one house. Shaw was forced to send his two male Blueticks to Rhode Island. He kept the females, the puppies and a blind fluffy miniature Eskimo dog named Lacy.

Neighbors are afraid that having so many dogs on their block will lower property values. They also say Shaw's behavior has become increasingly hostile.

Twice in the last few weeks, Dunlap has seen him skinning raccoons in his driveway in the middle of the night.

"I don't know what his intentions are, but it makes me feel intimidated," she said.

Shaw said he hunts at night with the dogs. When he gets home late, he skins the animals before they become stiff, he said.

The dogs frolic through the back yard, a narrow concrete, mud and grass space. They howl sporadically, but when they do, it is audible down most of Germania Avenue, a dead-end street.

The neighbors are exasperated and feel helpless. Shaw loves his dogs enough to tolerate the fines and summonses, and as long as he has only three adult dogs, he is abiding by the laws of the town.

Four of the puppies have been sold, but the other four will be adults when they turn 6 months old in December. Shaw will be forced to move them, or move with them.

"I'd like to keep a couple of them," he said of the puppies. "We're in the process of moving for the dogs."

This page is part of the Peace and Quiet News,
which is a component of the Barking Dog News and