Ferrisburgh Selectboard to consider at-home dog rescue operation

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FERRISBURGH, Vt. (WCAX) An Addison County town is hearing complaints about a resident running a dog rescue out of her home.

The echo of dogs barking can be heard several houses down Sand Road in Ferrisburgh.

"When I'm sitting in the garage, them dogs-- you can hear him whine trying to get out up here," said James Gallant, a neighbor.

Neighbors say the property has been a frustration for years, from the noise to the smell.

"Trouble is she gets one dog and she can't get rid of it. She falls in love with them and she keeps-- I seen 40 dogs here one time," Gallant said.

The town says the tenant, Sheila McGregor, runs a nonprofit dog rescue from her ranch-style home named Heidi's Haven. It's a property she rents from her brother.

"That just doesn't seem fit for that type of service or operation," said Rick Ebel, the Ferrisburgh Selectboard chair.

McGregor spoke to WCAX News on the phone and said her dogs are fine.

"I hike my dogs every day. We sweep the yard and remove fecal matter," McGregor said.

She says there are 32 dogs inside and they get plenty of exercise.

"I take my dogs off property pretty much every day-- a certain amount of them. We have two fenced-in yards, I take them to dog parks and we re-home them," McGregor said.

But her neighbors are fed up. Residents have complained at several select board meetings about excessive barking, the stink of urine and feces, and what they suspect are unsanitary conditions inside. Some also claim rats from McGregor's house are coming onto their property.

"That's a huge concern, rats are disease-carrying animals," Ebel said.

He says there are no state guidelines for managing an at-home animal rescue operation. He says it's now up to the community to amend its laws.

"We're going to work through our town ordinance to develop some guidelines in that regard... it's kind of a loophole as we see it right now, so we need to move with that," Ebel said.

No one answered the door at McGregor's home, but the smell was horrible, and the barking wouldn't stop.

Reporter Ike Bendavid: How many dogs do you think are in there right now? In the house?
James Gallant: I don't know 20 to 30 of them probably... It's inhumane, there's no doubt about it.

"When does it become a public safety issue? It's when the management and care of those animals becomes a real concern and very apparent, and in this situation that's what we're dealing with," Ebel said.

The select board met Tuesday night and McGregor and her animals were on the agenda. McGregor did not return phone calls for a comment.