Mark and Diana Hutton love their dogs as they do any other member of their family and admit their pack of seven dachshunds can get a little rowdy. Their neighbors think rowdy has morphed into annoying, perhaps even dangerous, and are asking village trustees to not renew the Huttons' pet fanciers license.
Denying the license could mean paring the Hutton pack down to three, but trustees voted unanimously to approve a two-month trial period without lee-way. A Pet Fanciers License is required to have more than three pets but no more than seven at a time.
At the heart of the matter is whether or not the Huttons are adhering to conditions first set forth in November 2010, and their neighbors' opinions carry some weight.
According to the executive summary from Clerk/Treasurer Veronica Rudychev, the village received complaints from David Labrie and Mark and Tina Russell in 2010 about barking dogs, biting dogs and dogs running loose. At the time, the Huttons were granted a provisional fanciers license but they had to meet some conditions: use shock or bark collars to curb the noise and install blinds on the windows of their closed-in back porch to reduce the chance the dogs would see something that would make them bark.
Diana Hutton said they do have the required collars and brought the two styles they use to the meeting. Both Huttons admitted they forgot about the blinds.
Because the 2010 license was provisional, the Huttons were supposed to come back before the Village Board in May 2011 to have the situation reviewed. Diana Hutton claims she called the village to find out about when they should expect to get on the meeting agenda but was told that with moving, village hall staff was too busy.
"I was told that if we hadn't heard anything, then everything was probably okay," she said.
The Huttons had six dogs and a cat at that time. Since then, the couple's son has moved home and he brought a dachshund puppy with him while the cat went to live with another family. Labrie and the Russells filed new letters with the village objecting to an extension of the fanciers license. Neither neighbor could attend the Village Board meeting so Rudychev read their letters into the record.
Matt and Tina Russell's letter outlined how the situation did seem to improve last summer, but when they wanted to be outside or have their windows open during the recent spate of warm weather, the dogs' barking made it impossible.
"The dogs seemed to be outside barking throughout the day. Any time we went into the backyard, the dogs were at the edge of the fence, barking at us," their letter stated. "lt was at this point that we knew this summer was not going to go well, and that we would need to once again pursue this issue."
Labrie, who was bitten by one of the dogs in 2010, didn't want to call police about barking dogs, but said if the pet fancier license is renewed, he will start making reports.
"If Mr. and Mrs. Hutton's Fanciers License is approved and dogs continue to bark we have no other option to protect our privacy and right to enjoy our property, and will forward civil matters and ordnance violations regarding their dogs to police each occurrence," he wrote. "This situation is now continuing into
a third summer and we feel Hutton’s are making no effort for resolution of this situation based on results of automatic review of their current provisional license that reflects disregard of license requirements issued by Mount Pleasant Board of Trustee’s."
Trustee Karen Albeck couldn't understand how the Huttons could allow another dog into their home given the precariousness of their situation.
"This is serious and 18 months is plenty of time to address this, but it's not really getting better," she said. "One solution is to not have so many dogs when you know this breed and the behaviors associated with it. How you can allow your son to bring in a new dog with this on-going issue doesn't make sense."
Village President Carolyn Milkie owns a dachshund and said it really comes down to who's the boss.
"These dogs need action, and their favorite toy is their voice, but you have to be firm and discipline them if they don't stop barking," she said. "When our dog barks too much, she has to go lay down in her kennel so she understands that she barked too much."
Mark Hutton said he knows he needs to be more firm.
"I'm terrible with discipline and know I should be better," he admitted.
Milkie suggested that the Huttons reach out to other dachshund owners for help, and they agreed they would do that.
In the end, trustees voted to approve a two-month extension, telling the Huttons to do whatever it takes to keep their dogs quiet. Trustee Gary Feest made the motion but said if the matter comes back before the board and conditions haven't been met or aren't improving, then the Huttons may have to get rid of some of their dogs.
Diana Hutton agreed the two months was fair and a good test period.
"This is good because the weather is getting warmer, and the dogs will be outside more," she said.
After the meeting, Diana Hutton said she's been in contact with a personal dog trainer who will come to their home to help her and Mark Hutton learn how to better control the dogs' barking. Diana Hutton also said she was looking for dachshund groups to get advice from other owners.
"I'm glad President Milkie suggested that because we wouldn't have thought about it," she said.