Woman fined, again, for too many dogs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 11, 2007

COURTLAND—Annette Dooley’s appearance in court Tuesday was her third on similar charges since she moved to Southampton County last year. She expects it will not be her last.

Five months after the Board of Supervisors denied her request for a commercial kennel license — required for residents with more than five animals that are four months or older — Dooley was defending herself in general district court over charges that she was operating a kennel without a permit.

She also had been charged with failing to get licenses for 11 dogs and with keeping inoperable vehicles on her property.

Each time she has appeared in court over charges relating to her dogs, beginning last March, Dooley has been found guilty. Tuesday was no exception.

County law enforcement officers are worried about the potential dangers resulting from so many dogs, not to mention the fact that they keep winding up in court with the same person over the same offenses.

“This is clearly a public safety issue,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jack Randall said during Tuesday’s hearing. “We need to get Miss Dooley’s attention. Clearly she doesn’t take this seriously.”

Randall asked for the maximum fine, $2,500, to be levied against the defendant. Judge Robert B. Edwards found her guilty on all charges, fining her $200 for operating a kennel without a license, $150 for failing to get licenses for her dogs and suspending her fine for the inoperable vehicles, most of which she said had been removed by the time of her hearing.

Southampton Sheriff’s Deputy James Cooke told the judge he had been called to the Dooley home on Vicks Millpond Road “at least 10 times” in relation to dogs.

The incident that prompted the latest court appearance took place in May, when one of Dooley’s dogs allegedly bit an appraiser who was doing research for a refinancing application, Dooley told a reporter after her conviction.

Cooke said in court that he had seen some of the dogs displaying aggressive behavior at the home during at least one of his visits, when two dogs had another pinned on the ground.

“What you would call aggressive could for one breed be playing,” Dooley responded, while standing before the judge with her fianc/, Mark Wier. “They like to bully their pups. Usually one of us steps in.”

Dooley, who was often combative and openly disdainful of both prosecutors and deputies during the hearing, said she had kept as many as 50 dogs of various ages on her property at one time.

But she claimed there are only 10 “adult” dogs there right now.

Answering a question by Randall, she said she had been trying to contact a person who runs a Web site where she would be able to list her dogs for adoption.

After the hearing, she said she intends to keep “five or six” of the animals. “But that is still over their limit, so I’ll be back.”

She said she is not bothered by the prospect of being back in court over the same charges, and both she and her fianc/ said they will continue picking up strays that appear to be injured or in distress, regardless of the number they might end up having at one time.

“The county can’t do anything about it,” she said.