Court orders residents to pay town attorney fees or reduce number of dogs
Rockland — Justice Jeffrey Hjelm ordered Sept. 12 that a Tenants Harbor couple will incur the costs of the town's legal fees and a fine if they do not limit the number of dogs they raise at their kennel by mid-November.
Lisa and Andrew Gerakaris, owners of Sparta Kennels, will pay $4,000 in legal fees as well as a $750 fine to St. George, unless they own six or less dogs by Nov. 15, according to court documents.
The couple raise German shepherds for law enforcement, including border patrol and state police.
Lisa Gerakaris said when she and her husband agreed to reduce the number of dogs in their kennel from 20 to six, they did it to get along with neighbors and mitigate tension.
In May, Sparta Kennels, owned by Lisa and Andrew Gerakaris, and the town of St. George reached a verbal agreement in court to resolve a years-long issue involving infractions of the town's animal control ordinance. The Gerakarises said the agreement made in Knox County District Court is not the same as the agreement they were asked to officially accept later.
The agreement sent to the couple following the hearing stipulated they reduce their kennel to not six, but four canines.
"Six to four basically puts me out of business," Lisa said.
The Gerakarises, in June, asked the court to review the agreement and enter a judgement.
The defendants initially agreed to pay the town $750 for 15 complaints, removing all but six or fewer dogs by Nov. 15, and cover the town's legal expenses, totaling $4,000. If they were able to abide by the stipulations of the ruling, the town would have waived the costs.
An ordinance was previously adopted by the town to address barking after complaints were raised, said Town Manager John Falla.
Attorney for St. George, Michael Hodgins, said the maximum number of dogs allowed without a state kennel license is determined by state statute, not the town.
He said the kennel license statute was not part of the barking dog violation, but was discussed as part of the resolution.
Hodgins said when it was discussed outside the courtroom in May, the maximum number allowed without a license was represented as six.
"No one confirmed if that figure was consistent with the statute, it was assumed by all to be correct," he said.
The Gerakarises formerly had a kennel license from the town for two years, ending in January, when the town decided not to renew the license, Lisa Gerakaris said.
After the hearing in May, Lisa Gerakaris said the enforcement of the ordinance has been selective and has targeted her business. After the ordinance was passed, she received a cumulative report of complaints, the bulk of which were from one neighbor.
Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at email@example.com.
594-4401 ext. 118
Juliette primarily covers the cops and courts beat for The Courier-Gazette.
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