Smithfield aftermath: Neighbors speak out about dogs

SMITHFIELD — After an unsuccessful attempt to get a kennel permit from either the Planning and Zoning Commission or the City Council, Chris Biggs says he is being treated unjustly and will appeal to civil court. However, his neighbors say the reason his permit keeps getting denied is because Biggs doesn’t have the ability or the willpower to maintain the dogs that already live with him.

Paul Thomas, Biggs’s next-door neighbor, said the trouble began almost a year ago when Biggs purchased an Italian mastiff, a large dog with a loud bark. Thomas said Biggs’s dogs, including the mastiff and two others, were let loose to roam the neighborhood and the adjoi ning golf course whenever Biggs wasn’t at home.

“I first made a complaint to animal control after he kept letting his dogs just come out and run stray,” Thomas said. “They weren’t licensed or anything so after animal control got after him a couple times, some of the other neighbors called him in too.”

Thomas said a couple who’d been living on the other side of Biggs’s house but had since moved out, had complained the most of any of his neighbors. The couple called the police and animal control on several occasions to make Biggs keep his dogs quiet and to make him build a fence to keep them inside.

“After the animal control got after him, he went and licensed his dogs,” Thomas said, “and then he went and put up this little fence which was just chicken wire with these little metal posts, and they were just going underneath it.”

At the council meeting Biggs said golfers had been pushing his fence over, but Thomas said it was the mastiff that had been pushing over and digging under the fence. Thomas also said Biggs had put a small pool and a drip can in front of the holes his dogs had dug when asked to fix them. Eventually things escalated to where the couple who’d lived next door to Biggs started a petition to stop him from getting a kennel license and legally owning more dogs. Kim Thomas, Paul’s wife, said it was because the neighbors were concerned about the mastiff already in his yard.

“The petition was to stop the dog kennel,” she said. “They had little kids and the dogs were breaking down the fence and scaring the kids. They would bark all day; she had a little baby that wouldn’t sleep.”

Biggs told the city council he wanted the kennel license to keep his dogs so he could protect them. According to him, one of his dogs died due to prolonged exposure to summer heat when he gave it to someone else. “I’m just trying to get the dog that’s deaf… in my property,” Biggs said during the meeting. “That’s all I’m asking so that I don’t have another $3,000 dog die.”

Kim Thomas said she didn’t understand what Biggs meant because his dogs had been out of his house nearly every day during the summer and hadn’t suffered any heat-related afflictions. On top of that, both Kim and Paul Thomas believe he would abuse a kennel license and use it for other purposes.

“He’s not going to keep this little white one that’s deaf; he wants to breed these big dogs,” Kim Thomas said, citing Biggs’s ex-wife. “His plan is to breed these big dogs and sell them. If it was these three dogs and that little deaf one for his kids, I wouldn’t really have a problem with that but that’s not what his plan is.”

Paul and Kim Thomas said they weren’t afraid of the dogs and that the dogs were all quite friendly. The only problem they had was with how rowdy and noisy they were and how poorly kept Biggs’s yard was, leading to foul smells from dog droppings and the dogs frequently breaking out.

According to Kim Thomas, the neighbor who moved offered to mow and clean Biggs’s yard and help repair the fence. Paul Thomas said he’d taken time off during July to repair an old fence in Biggs’s yard that had rotted out of its base and had began leaning heavily into Thomas’s yard.

The family is fed up with the situation and said they don’t want to keep dealing with it, although they were willing to help fix it if Biggs took responsibility.

“If he’d get the wood I’d help him get the fence up,” Kim Thomas said. “Let me help you put this fence up, let’s get it how it’s supposed to be so we can enjoy our backyard again.”

Published in cooperation with the Hard News Cafe. Original story is here.