An Oregon court ruled Wednesday a rural Rogue River couple must have their dogs surgically "debarked" after causing their neighbors more than a decade of disruption.
In its ruling, the Oregon Court of Appeals determined that the devocalization operations were necessary since the dogs' owners had not done enough to quiet their pets.
Neighbors Debra and Dale Krein say they decided to file the lawsuit as a last resort after enduring more than a decade of nuisance barking by six or more dogs. According the Kreins, the barking begins as early as 5 a.m. and has caused the family and their guests discomfort.
According to Mail Tribune files, in April 2015, a Jackson County jury found in favor of the Kreins, who had filed suit in 2012 in Jackson County Circuit Court along with two other neighbors who were later dismissed as plaintiffs. The jury awarded the Kreins $238,900 in damages for what they described as more than a decade of constant barking by the giant dogs.
Judge Timothy Gerking also ordered that the dogs be debarked, noting that the financial settlement would not stop the noise problem.
Karen Szewc, who lives on East Evans Creek Road, says the dogs bark when they sense predators and are necessary to keep the livestock on her property protected.
The Kreins claimed the dogs would often begin barking at 5 a.m. and would continue throughout the day. They also claimed the couple did nothing to quiet their dogs even after being cited by Jackson County Animal Control in 2002 and 2004 for violating public nuisance codes. In 2006, a Jackson County hearings officer imposed a $400 fine and ordered that the dogs be debarked or moved off of the property.
The Kreins made audio recordings to prove their case.
The Appeals Court upheld the $238,000 verdict and Gerking’s ruling, reasoning that the Kreins shouldn't have to file multiple lawsuits to recover compensation as the problem continues. In his written opinion, Appeals Judge Joel DeVore likened that to a “judicial merry-go-round.”
Szewc told The Oregonian/OregonLive that efforts to silence her dogs have threatened her ability to run her farm.
“The dogs are my employees,” she said. “We do not have the dogs to harass the neighbors. We have the dogs to protect our sheep.”
The dogs bark, she said, when they sense predators, such as bears and cougars. She said agricultural properties generate farm noise — something her neighbors haven't come to accept.
“The next line of defense is a gun. I don’t need to use a gun, if I can protect my sheep with dogs," Szewc said. "This is a passive way of protecting livestock.”
Szewc told The Oregonian/OregonLive she and her husband currently have six dogs, but the number has fluctuated over the years.
— The Associated Press contributed to this story.