Kaid Benfield Archive


A NIMBY tale for the dog days

Kaid Benfield

Posted August 28, 2008 at 12:51PM

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neighborhood menace (poodle photo by Vanessa Pike-Russell, creative commons license)And now for my last next-to-last post of the summer:

Recently I wrote about a decline of community and trust in America’s neighborhoods, leading to what I believe is disproportionate opposition even to modest development proposals that would actually benefit communities.  But, my goodness, this “community ain’t what it used to be” thing is worse than I thought:

I have just read, in another feel-good story about neighbors, that a woman was apparently arrested and shackled after her pet poodles trespassed on a neighbor’s yard.  No, I am not making this up.  It was a story in a major national newspaper.

Matt Zapotosky of The Washington Post writes:

“Linda Johnson admits that her two miniature poodles, Ollie and Hershey, sometimes trotted into her neighbor's yard during their morning and afternoon walks. It is possible that once or twice, the two brown and black fur balls even peed in the grass, she said.

“But that, she said, was no reason to have her arrested, shackled and charged with trespassing, all based on accusations by her Calvert County neighbors, a Maryland State Police sergeant and his wife.

"’What's even crazier is the state's attorney is actually going to prosecute me in court for this,’ said Johnson, 47, who is awaiting trial this month on the charges filed in May.

"’They're sniffing along the grass, walking on the grass, because that's where the dogs want to walk.’

“The case of Maryland v. Linda May Johnson is a classic tale of suburban strife, pitting dog walker against homeowner, neighbor against neighbor on a contentious issue that roils communities across the region. Compounding the squabble is Johnson's claim that her neighbors' German shepherd attacked her poodles and 8-year-old son.

“The neighbors, James and Jennifer Barth, did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment. In court documents, Jennifer Barth accuses Johnson of repeatedly walking Ollie and Hershey into her yard, over her objections, and allowing them to pee and poop.

“The state police commander present during Johnson's arrest defended his troopers' actions. He said Johnson herself frequently strolled on the Barths' yard and ignored one simple request: Walk on the other side of the street . . .”

Call me a cynic, but I can’t help but wonder if the fact that the complaining neighbors include a state police sergeant has something to do with this.  Be careful out there.

Read the full story here