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Quentin Lopes, 11, plays with four of the familys six pit bulls in the backyard of his home on Route 130 in Mashpee. The family is building a new home on Ashumet Road, where they are meeting opposition from neighbors.
Carmen and Melissa Shay, who have two young girls, put a fence and shrubs around their yard after learning that their new neighbors want to raise six pit bulls. You cant ensure that one wont escape, said Carmen Shay.
A town playground in Mashpee is close to the house where a family wants to raise six pit bulls. One family in the neighborhood has started a petition drive to keep the dogs out of the area.
In his Mashpee kitchen, Carmen Shay displays pictures of people who were attacked and bitten by pit bulls. The Shays, who have two girls, ages 6 and 8, are dead set against having six pit bulls next door because the animals would be in close proximity to where their children play.
Pit bulls divide Mashpee neighbors
By MATTHEW M. BURKE
April 03, 2009
MASHPEE — For Brendan Lopes and Tiffany Mendes, building their own home is the all-American dream.
But for their Ashumet Road neighbors, Carmen and Melissa Shay, it's a potential nightmare.
On one side of the fence are Lopes, Mendes and their 11-year-old son whose dream house includes a backyard with six pit bulls. On the other side of the fence is the Shays' yard, where their two small children play.
Now, town officials will have to decide whether they will grant Lopes and Mendes a kennel permit to keep the dogs, despite objections from the Shays, who are worried about the safety of their kids and any other children who might be playing in the area.
The town plan review committee will hold a hearing on April 23. It's not the first test case of the town's new kennel bylaw and regulations, but it's the first involving a pit bull. The bylaw was created in 2007, when complaints of unsanitary conditions surfaced at the Notorious B.L.U.E Kennels, which had been operating without a license.
The relatively new zoning bylaw and associated health regulations governing kennels in Mashpee require residents with more than three dogs of any breed to get a personal kennel permit from the board of health. For owners who have between four and nine dogs, they are required to go before the plan review committee, which sets conditions and makes recommendations to the board of health.
The plan review committee consists of the town administrator's office, police, fire, health, and building departments. The committee is tasked with making recommendations to the board of health.
The board of health will take up the matter at their next meeting on April 15 but is not expected to make a decision until after the plan review committee makes a recommendation, a spokeswoman said. However, the health board is not bound by the committee's recommendations.
Lopes and Mendes live on Route 130 with extended family and their six dogs — Mischief, Smokey, Killian, Romeo, Justice, and Iyannough.
Lopes and Mendes say that pit bulls get a bad rap because of irresponsible owners. Furthermore, the young couple says, they want to go through the proper licensing channels so that they can bring all of their dogs with them when they move into their new home rather than put them up for adoption or euthanizing them, which would be devastating to them and their son.
"They are his brothers and sisters," Brendan Lopes said of his son's relationship with the pit bulls.
"All of my dogs are very social family dogs. We're all for this (licensing hearing). It weeds out irresponsible dog owners. We're just trying to live the American dream," he said.
Referring to his own dogs as "big lap dogs," Lopes said tarring all pit bulls with the same brush is akin to bigotry, "like saying that all Arabs are terrorists."
Bad rap or not, the Shays, who have two little girls ages 6 and 8, are dead set against having pit bulls in such close proximity to where their children play. They sought to drive home the point in the kitchen of their home earlier this week, displaying pictures of people who had been attacked and bitten by pit bulls.
While the Shays have a fence separating the two properties, it's not enough to make them feel secure. And it's not just their backyard that concerns the Shays. There's also a nearby town park where countless other children play.
"You can take all the precautions you want, but you can't ensure that one won't escape and get a kid playing baseball or a mother pushing her child on the swings," Carmen Shay said. "We feel it could be catastrophic."
Melissa Shay added, "The board of health basically said that they can't do anything unless something happens. Why should my child be maimed for life because they can't do anything?"
Hoping to allay fears, Lopes said that he plans to fence in his entire yard as well as erect a fence around the kennel complex on his property.
Because they have yet to hold a hearing on the matter, town officials didn't have much to say about the brewing dogfight.
"Public safety is the most pressing issue," said Mashpee Town Manager Joyce Mason, who sits on the town's plan review committee.
Police Chief Rodney Collins said that the plan review committee is aware of one complaint against Lopes and his dogs in which one of his dogs had gotten loose in the town of Falmouth. Collins did not know exactly when that complaint was lodged but said it was not a recent complaint.
Marsha Kotas, a veterinary technician and hospital manager for the Falmouth Animal Hospital, said that any dog has the potential to be aggressive. She said that it depends on any number of factors, including how a dog is raised, trained, their owner, genetics, as well as their environment.
"You can have a golden retriever that is aggressive," she said. "Not every pit bull is aggressive. The owner has a responsibility for his dogs, to not let them loose."
Meanwhile, the Shays have started a petition drive to keep the dogs out after attending the last hearing. A number of neighbors and other patrons of the park have come out in support.
Pit bulls on Cape Cod
May 1999 - A 3-year-old pit bull attacks a Brittany spaniel at a Dennis beach while both are illegally off leash, leaving the smaller dog with bite marks. The dog also left a puncture wound on its owner's hand when he tried to break them up. Selectmen spared the pit bull and allowed her to remain in town.
September 1999 - A 6-year-old girl was treated at Cape Cod Hospital following a pit bull attack in Hyannis in which she was bit in the face.
May 2001 - Sandwich police shoot and kill a loose pit bull after it bites one woman and menaces a jogger.
December 2002 - An 8-year-old Edgartown girl suffers a deep puncture wound from a pit bull while riding her bike in her neighborhood. The dog is later euthanized.
July 2003 - Falmouth selectmen order one pit bull euthanized and another to behavioral testing following several incidents of aggression.
October 2005 - A pit bull was euthanized after attacking a 53-year-old Dennis man and biting him on the legs and an arm.
June 2006 - Two pit bulls are "executed" in the woods in Barnstable with semi-automatic rifles. One man pleads guilty and another is acquitted in the case.
August 2006 - A pregnant pit bull is stolen from a South Yarmouth home for the puppies, which can fetch a considerable sum.
August 2006 - A West Barnstable pit bull is euthanized after biting four people in five months.
January 2007 - A homeless Falmouth woman finds the decapitated head of her pit bull in a decorative tin on the hood of her car while parked outside a friend's house. Two Mashpee women, the owners of Notorious B.L.U.E. Kennels, were later investigated in the crime. Police also looked into unsanitary conditions at the unlicensed kennel. The investigation spurred the town's kennel bylaw a year later.
May 2007 - A South Yarmouth pit bull owner opts to have two dogs euthanized rather than put up a fence to keep his dogs in the yard after complaints from neighbors. The dogs were accused of being aggressive towards mail carriers, neighbors, and was accused of attacking another neighborhood dog.
February 2008 - An East Falmouth man is charged, and later convicted, with using a pit bull as a weapon during a drug arrest.
September 2007 - Three Hyannis teens are arrested at the Cape Cod Mall with stolen pit bull puppies after seven go missing from a Hyannis backyard.
Source: Times archives