Dog training draws ire

Published 10:09 am Saturday, August 13, 2011

COURTLAND—William Arrington compares the military dog training in his Southampton County neighborhood to that of a war zone.

“Cannon fire, automatic weapons, all of the horrible signs of war brought to your doorstep,” Arrington told the Southampton County Planning Commission about American K-9 Interdiction’s training on a neighboring property. “Armed men with packs roaming the farms and woods.”

After hearing complaints on Thursday from nearly 10 residents, the planning commission agreed to speak against the Walters company’s request to use nine properties to train its dogs. The public hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15, at the County Government Center in Courtland.

“I would be against it 100 percent,” said planning commission member Oliver Parker. “After listening to the situation here, it really is frightening.”

Residents reported homes and windows shaking from what sounded like machine gunfire and mortars going off.

“I have witnessed some of it, and it’s not something you want in your area,” said Steve Ferguson of Odom Chapel Road, who lives next to one of the properties in question.

When a resident reported the training to county officials, the company was given 10 days to stop, said Beth Lewis, county community development director.

“I think they took all of the 10 days, but they did stop,” Lewis said.

Paul Roushia, co-owner of American K-9 Interdiction, said his company has done similar training in Isle of Wight County, Suffolk, Newport News, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. Permission was not needed.

“Nobody requires a special-use permit to train a dog on private property,” he said.

Roushia also explained that what residents heard was simulated gunfire, including from what sounded like an AK47 assault rifle.

“It’s the same thing you will hear come November (when people hunt) for doe and deer,” he said.

Mitchell Gray, who lives off Shady Brook Trail, said his wife heard blasts one day that shook their home and she called him at work.

“It lasted all day long,” Gray said. “I came home at lunch, and it shook the house, and the dishes in the cabinet rattled. My neighbor had two dogs in the house and it was torn to pieces.”

Roushia attributed that day’s activities to training by Virginia State Police. Police could not be reached for comment.

Roushia compared the sounds of simulated gunfire to that of a shotgun or 9 mm weapon. He also said he doesn’t plan to use anything that would rattle windows.

Dallas Jones, chairman for the Board of Supervisors and a member of the planning commission, said he was unaware of the dog training.

“I didn’t know about it and I wouldn’t want it at my house,” Jones said.

Military dog training is not permitted in the county, but can be granted through a temporary special-use exception.

The properties in question include:

* The former Boykins Elementary School at 17219 Pittman Road, owned by the county

* Ivor Elementary School at 7486 Proctor’s Bridge Road, also owned by the county

* Parcels on Melon Field and Three Bees roads in Newsoms, both owned by Denise and J.C. Bunn III.

* Parcels on Odom Chapel Road, East Depot Street and south of General Thomas Highway west of Cypress Bridge Road, all in Newsoms, belonging to the Joan Bunn Life Estate

* Property on Crossroads Drive near Franklin, owned by Green Waste Recycling

* Property at 36465 General Mahone Boulevard owned by Charles and Kathleen Clark in the Berlin-Ivor area.