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Old 08-11-2008, 04:59 PM
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Default Woman Arrested, Shackled After Pets Walk in Nearby Yard

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...01943.html?g=1

Neighborly Ties Gone to the Dogs
Woman Arrested, Shackled After Pets Walk in Nearby Yard


By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 11, 2008; Page B01

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.

"I felt it was the appropriate thing to do," said 1st Sgt. Stewart Cumbo of the state police barrack in Prince Frederick. "If anything, I was more surprised with her conduct to continue to allow her dogs to trespass on this property after she had agreed to cease and desist."

Those involved say tension between the Barths and the Johnsons turned into an all-out dogfight several months ago, when Johnson called animal control to report a dog attacking her poodles and son.

In court documents, Jennifer Barth wrote that her dogs were inside during the "supposed incident," but she acknowledged that Johnson's call to animal control was the first of many problems between them.

"From this point forward, she began to constantly walk the dogs in our yard," Jennifer Barth wrote in an application for a protective order against Johnson. That temporary order, obtained after Johnson's arrest, was dismissed when Jennifer Barth, 35, did not attend a court hearing to finalize it.

"I would tell her to get the dogs out of the yard, always hearing the same responses -- It is not your yard, stating we are harassing her, Yelling obscenities, giving visual obscenities, etc.," Jennifer Barth wrote. "The dog walking was/is an almost every day event."

Johnson, who has since moved to New Hampshire for reasons unrelated to her arrest, acknowledged getting into heated arguments with Jennifer Barth and her 15-year-old daughter. But the arguments, she said, were initiated by Jennifer Barth, who would bellow at her every time the dogs walked onto her lawn.

"This is just something she does. It became an issue for my dogs even touching a blade of grass on the same street we live on," Johnson said.

The dispute polarized neighbors in the quiet St. Leonard subdivision known as Old Glory. Some took the Barths' side, arguing that Johnson antagonized the family. Others favored Johnson, saying they now walk their dogs the other way on Constitution Drive to avoid the ire of the state police sergeant down the street. Most said they tried to keep out of it.

"I think it's too bad," said Wendy Kilbourne, 51. "I think both of them are pushing it past where it needs to go."

Animal control officials say neighborly squabbles involving pets are common. But often, they add, the fights have more to do with underlying problems than they do with dogs, and they are usually resolved without an arrest.

"A lot of this has to do more with some ongoing dispute with neighbors than it does . . . with the animal in the middle of it," said Stephen Dickstein, director of the Animal Services Division for the Montgomery County Police Department.

Several jurisdictions -- including the District and Calvert, Fairfax and Montgomery counties -- have specific animal control ordinances that subject dog owners who allow their pets on private property to fines or jail time.

Johnson was charged criminally, not under Calvert's animal control ordinance, which would have carried a $50 fine. A single trespassing charge carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Johnson said she refused to walk across the street, as police suggested, because she feared that those neighbors, too, would berate her and her dogs. Besides, she said, the first few feet of the Barths' yard are public property, belonging to the homeowners association. Cumbo, of the state police, said the Barths' property line extends to the street.

The dispute reached a boiling point May 16, when Jennifer Barth and Johnson got into an argument near the school bus stop in front of the Barths' home. At one point, Johnson said, she stepped onto the Barths' yard and asked, "What are you going to do about it?"

"Did I think I'd be dragged away and off to prison? Absolutely not," she said.

The next morning, state troopers showed up at her door, charging her with four counts of trespassing, one count of harassment and one count of disorderly conduct. They handcuffed her, shackled her legs and took her to the Calvert County Detention Center, where she was held for several hours until she was released on her own recognizance. The dogs stayed in her home during that time.

Cumbo said Johnson was shackled because troopers had to call the corrections department for a female officer. It is standard procedure to use shackles, he said.

And the damage the two poodles could have caused the grass? Visible burnout patches on it, caused by nitrogen and salt in the dogs' urine, but nothing too significant, experts said.

"The bottom line is if you have something like a 15- to 20-pound dog, you're looking at a potential damage of a 10-centimeter-diameter scar which could be left," said Cale Bigelow, an assistant professor of agronomy at Purdue University specializing in turfgrass science. "I think you could slap a piece of sod in it and just walk away."
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Old 08-11-2008, 05:05 PM
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....Um....so just in case I needed one more reason to move out of Suburbia Hell ASAP, I will refer to this article.
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Old 08-11-2008, 05:07 PM
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This is what is called "misuse of the legal system."

Sure, its legal, sure, its within their rights, and WOW, what a waste of everyone's time, money, mental health and community goodwill. Not to mention government resources and taxpayer's money.

On the other hand, perhaps she missed the memo that says: its rude to let your dog pee on someone else's lawn.
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Old 08-11-2008, 05:12 PM
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You know whats funny? At my old house we had issues that were pet related with my neighbor who lived two doors down..and he was a sheriff deputy. And NOW in my new house that we have lived at for 7 months...my new next door neighbor (Who is a sheriff deputy) has been complaining about water from our yard "flooding" his yard. We are ALLOWED to water our yard.....some of that water happens to go into his yard, and on his driveway and he calls code enforcement who has been to our house 3 times now and can't do anything because we are allowed to water our yard and have our sprinklers on for 30 minutes...Its the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. What does he do when it rains? Does he call code enforcement on the sky? lol

And you don't see me calling animal control on his 3 dogs who bark 24/7...I can barely get sleep those dogs bark all night long, and all day long..and they do nothing to shut them up.

And another one..My neighbor across the street is accusing some of my cats of using her flowerbeds as a litter box. My cats are indoors at nighttime, and during the day none of them leave my yard. And I actually caught her next door neighbor's cats going in her yard and when I mentioned it to her, she said "Nope..they don't. They are good cats"...Yeah, I was lying lol. And my cats would be "bad cats" for using a dirt flowerbed as a litter box?

Sorry for my rant on neighbor disputes lol....That just reminded me of my neighbor and old neighbor who happen to have the same profession as the above neighbor.
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Old 08-11-2008, 05:23 PM
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I wish they'd come take away that woman across my street who allows her dogs to wander, pee poop and shred trash bags DAILY.
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Old 08-11-2008, 05:52 PM
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Lord , isn't there more important thigs than this !!!! Glad I have good neighbors !
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Old 08-11-2008, 05:53 PM
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I don't let my dogs pee on my neighbor's yards. Its just polite.
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Old 08-11-2008, 07:22 PM
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Isn't it amazing that people can live in a nice, safe country with clean water, abundant food, and little risk of being randomly shot down in the street . . . things so many people long for . . . and end up making themselves miserable over something like this?

Both those ladies should grow up.
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Old 08-11-2008, 07:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boemy View Post
Isn't it amazing that people can live in a nice, safe country with clean water, abundant food, and little risk of being randomly shot down in the street . . . things so many people long for . . . and end up making themselves miserable over something like this?

Both those ladies should grow up.
That's the problem . . . they literally don't have anything better to do. Admittedly, they could, like most of the rest of the country, FIND something better to do, but they've decided that petty disputes over a small patch of lawn are an appropriate activity, and better yet, an appropriate activity into which to drag the legal system, which DOES have better things to do.

Also, some people just have to be angry, miserable and put-upon. Its their nature . . . so they find away to persecuted, self-righteous and unhappy, and better yet, share it with everyone near by. Because nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around
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Old 08-11-2008, 09:22 PM
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Urgh, so glad we don't live around people like that. Either one of them.

Personally, I'd me more worried about the alleged harassment than the dogs peeing. Did she even have them on leash? It doesn't say either way. It's pretty easy to control where your dogs are if they are attached to a line. Whatever happened to common courtesy?

But yeah....too bad she isn't paying the costs instead of the taxpayers.
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