Gary McMullen of Cedar Avenue in Anna Maria learned that barking dogs can be expensive.
At its Nov. 14 meeting, the city code enforcement board found McMullen had not complied with its May directive to control his dogs or face a fine.
Board members unanimously approved an $850 fine after hearing testimony from code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon, McMullen and McMullen’s neighbor Chris Collins.
McMullen said that after the May hearing he bought shock collars for his dogs. He was unaware there was any further problem until he received a notice from Rathvon that he was not in compliance with the board’s directive.
Rathvon presented a letter of complaint from Kathryn Gilbertson, a neighbor of McMullen’s, and a list from Collins of seven dates from August through October when the dogs barked for more than 10 minutes.
McMullen, however, said he was surprised when he received the notice: “I thought we had been complying. We bought new shock collars that are very effective.”
He presented statements from five neighbors who said they had no problem with McMullen’s two dogs.
“These letters show there are no problems. There are no complaints when the Gilbertsons are not here,” McMullen said.
“We’ve taken care of the problem and it’s the same people who complained the last time. It’s the Gilbertsons, and this is a witch-hunt. I’ll be cooperative, but this was a total surprise to me,” he said.
McMullen said he thought the city would advise him of any further barking issue before he had to return to the board.
City attorney Jim Dye said that because the board had already given McMullen time to bring his dogs into compliance, the city did not have to notice McMullen of the violation, only the hearing.
Board chair Bill Iseman said the board had found non-compliance in May and that any further complaint would bring the violation back to the board.
The board could have fined McMullen up to $500 a day for each violation, but choose the $850 amount to cover the city’s cost in pursuing the case.
“But how can you tell it’s our dogs barking,” McMullen said. His dogs are kept behind a fence and there are other dogs on Cedar Avenue that bark, he said.
“I am not a rich man. I inherited the house. This is really going to hurt. You are taking the word of two people over five,” McMullen said.
In other business, the board heard that a contractor is renovating a dock at 715 Holly Road that will bring it into compliance with a settlement the city and property owner agreed to at the board’s October meeting.
The board delayed any action on the complaint by Rathvon that the dock was non-conforming until verification is received the agreed work has been completed.
Iseman was unanimously elected to another one-year term as chair, while Maureen McCormick was elected vice chair. Iseman, a retired lawyer, said he would like one of the newer board members to become chair. He has been chair of the board since 2002, but there were no other nominations for the position.