Rat Fingers Dogs? 1

One of the dogs facing Oakland deadline

One of the dogs facing Oakland deadline

It could be called a Very Brady Brood as unplanned circumstances have led to the Brown home in Oakland, NJ to be turned into a temporary hotel for dogs. Doug and Lori Brown are the owners of three dogs, and when medical issues led to their daughter and son-in-law moving in with them, they became grandparents to three more dogs; in Oakland you are only allowed 4 dogs.

“No person, firm or corporation shall own, possess, keep, harbor or have in custody more than four (4) dogs on any property in any zone located in the Borough.”, is how the local ordinance reads, but it apparently is only enforced when borough officials receive complaints. In the Brown case, it appears an ex-boyfriend of the daughter is using the police to enact a personal vendetta against the family.

The Bergen Record reports Councilman Pat Pignatelli as saying that borough officials canvassed the neighborhood and found no evidence that the anonymous complaints were from nearby residents. Many residents were unaware of any dogs, much less six, living with the Browns, and this led borough officials to grant a 90 day extension to allow the Brown’s to remedy the situation.

The Browns, seeking to keep their family together, put the house up for sale in April. Unfortunately, the housing market is still in a crisis, and there are three additional houses for sale on their block. Some neighbors are passing a petition in the hopes of gaining the Browns additional time beyond the deadline of June 25th set by the town.

The New Jersey League of Municipalities, as well as the NJ Department of Health, discourage what are known as “pet limit” laws such as Oakland’s. Many animal lovers and activists are also strongly opposed to the regulation. The argument is that the laws discourage the registration of pets which has been proven to help in maintaining the animal population, as well as assuring pets are properly vaccinated.

click to read the American Kennel Club's position on dog limits

click to read the American Kennel Club's position on dog limits

The belief amongst animal control experts is that there are already laws on the books to deal with pets that become a nuisance, and an arbitrary limit can prove counter productive by increasing the number of unregistered dogs. Other animal lovers who rescue dogs from kill shelters are concerned that their network of foster homes could be put in jeopardy by pet limit laws.

Similar laws have also been struck down as unconstitutional in other states. An ordinance that arbitrarily declares a number of animals a nuisance without establishing nuisance conditions has been held to be outside of a municipality’s powers.

The Borough of Carnegie in PA enacted an ordinance limiting the number of cats and/or dogs that a person could keep, only to have the courts overturn it. In its analysis, the Commonwealth Court made an analogy between the authority of a municipality to limit the number of cats and dogs that a person may have and its authority to regulate other kinds of nuisances, such as the accumulation of junk. The court found that, in both cases, the critical consideration was whether the regulated activity constitutes a nuisance.

Just as a municipal ordinance that seeks to abate the storage of wrecked, junked, or abandoned vehicles cannot declare the mere presence of such vehicles on any given piece of property to be a nuisance per se, neither can a municipal ordinance simply declare that keeping more than a fixed number of cats or dogs is a nuisance per se. For example, laws that address excessive barking are appropriate as they address an actual nuisance.

The Browns face a looming deadline of June 25th imposed by the town to come in to compliance with the Oakland ordinance. They hope to appeal for an additional extension that will provide a reasonable time limit to sell their home in today’s market. There is also the hope, that with the support of neighbors, the extension might be extended until the medical situation that brought the brood of dogs together is resolved and their daughter and son-in-law once again have their own home.

The Browns are seeking any pro bono legal representation that might help expedite an agreement with the town that will allow them to remain in their home. Any residents with expertise in such matters are invited to comment confidentially using the form below.

One thought on “Rat Fingers Dogs?


    GREAT ARTICLE!!! I cannot believe the town of Oakland has nothing better to do than harass this family! How “generous” of the town to grant them extension til Sept. Isn’t that so very thoughtful of them while the Brown family is ONLY thinking of their immediate situation and will they have to bury their daughter! I think the boro should walk away from this situation and leave these people alone! I do believe that if taken to court the town would not win. Why would they do this to their taxpaying citizens? Run them out of town!! Really?? More crazy if they did put their house up for sale. How could you cause a family financial hardship to move in this economic climate? Aren’t their bigger problems to worry about than 3 extra dogs – who don’t seem to be bothering anyone? I know the Brown family have more important issues on their plate right now and this nonsense just adds to it. Now make them leave their home where their daughter was happy with the dogs she sooo loved. You would have to take a crane out to move me. Find a terrorist or something of importance and leave the Brown’s alone.

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