Faith Kilburn shares her West Hartford, Connecticut home with her mother and 21 Shih Tzu dogs. Except, now she has been ordered to reduce the number of her Shih Tzus to three.
Kilburn lost a court appeal of a town directive to reduce the number of pets that she had. The state Superior Court ruled against her, and she has 20 days to appeal the ruling.
The ruling does not impose fines or specify a date by which Kilburn must move 18 of the dogs out of her house.
Officials say that the town does intend to enforce the directive and has the power to levy daily fines if Kilburn is in violation after the appeal period. The town could issue citations with fines and fees of $43 a day for the first five days, $103 a day for the next 10 days and $192 a day thereafter.
This all started in December 2004 when the town plan and zoning commission granted Kilburn a special permit. This gave her until December 6, 2006 to reduce the number of dogs in her home from 22 to three. West Hartford residents can keep two dogs without a permit. (One of the 22 dogs died of natural causes in June.)
Before the deadline, Kilburn asked the commission in December to modify the special permit so she could keep all the dogs.
The commission found that the keeping of 22 dogs in the house was not appropriate or in harmony with the residential neighborhood. After the commission refused to modify the permit, Kilburn went to court in mid-December to appeal the decision. Rittenband [the judge] heard opposing arguments from Omasta [Kilburn’s lawyer] and Alair [the town’s deputy corporation counsel] in July.
Omasta told the judge that Kilburn didn’t have a chance to present her case for modification; she had installed a privacy gate and there had been no neighbors’ complaints and no noise problems, she said. The commission members were biased against Kilburn, Omasta told the judge.
Alair said that there was no evidence of bias and that the commission rejected Kilburn’s request because she did not present substantial evidence that circumstances had changed or that a modification was warranted.
In his ruling, Rittenband said there was no evidence that commission members were biased against Kilburn. Rittenband said the commission’s reason for deciding against Kilburn’s request in 2006 was the same reason it gave in 2004, when it allowed her two years to reduce the number of dogs: that the keeping of so many dogs was not appropriate or in harmony with the neighborhood. He found that the commission had not acted unreasonably, arbitrarily or illegally and dismissed the appeal.