KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- The owner of 13 pit bulls seized by police last week over barking complaints was able to recover the animals from the kennel where they were being held.
Dereck Jensen, of East Road, said all but four of his dogs are now with a friend of his in New Jersey. He said he is allowed to keep four without needing a kennel permit as per a new town ordinance the Select Board created to address the barking issue.
Town Manager Stuart Hurd said Jensen paid all the required fees and picked up the dogs on Friday. He said the animals have not been brought back to Jensen’s house and he is in compliance with town ordinances.
The dogs were seized by the Bennington Police Department on Aug. 20. Police acted under the authority of a court injunction which let them remove the dogs in order to enforce the town noise ordinance, which prohibits dogs from barking for longer than periods of 15 minutes. For a little over a year and a half, Jensen has been at odds with his neighbors who called police and testified at court hearings that the barking has made them unable to enjoy their property and also made their homes difficult to sell.
Jensen said in an interview Tuesday that he is pleased his dogs are safe, but is not happy about having to send them away. Jensen takes the dogs to shows, where they collect awards, which make them more valuable. He said he still views the animals as pets. He said he plans to move outside of Bennington where the barking will not be an issue. "No matter what I do, if I’m in Bennington they’ll come after me," he said, adding that there are other kennels in town that technically violate the ordinance but the town has not taken action.
In previous interviews, police said they have not received noise complaints from any other dog holding facilities.
Police were planning to act under the authority of a preliminary injunction granted in July, but the final injunction was issued the day before the seizure. Jensen had argued the town did not have the authority to take the dogs because they were not dangerous or being neglected, they were just noisy, but the court disagreed. It was also not swayed by Jensen having purchased a barking control system, which used high pitched noise to train the dogs not to bark. Police also issued Jensen two tickets for barking complaints.
Jensen had seven days from the time the dogs were seized to get them from the kennel. Had he not, the town would have had the authority to place them up for adoption, give them to an animal shelter, or had them euthanized. It can do the same should Jensen return the animals to his property within 30 days, only Jensen would not be able to get them back.