Tagish residents file suit claiming animal shelter is a nuisance

Six Tagish residents are asking the Yukon Supreme Court to put a stop to an animal rescue bordering their properties that they claim has become a nuisance.

Six Tagish residents are asking the Yukon Supreme Court to put a stop to an animal rescue bordering their properties that they claim has become a nuisance.

The dogs howling and barking, combined with fecal smells in the summer months, are disrupting their peaceful enjoyment of their properties, the lawsuit reads.

The defendant, Shelley Cuthbert, operates Any Domesticated Animal Rescue and Boarding Kennels.

“All her immediate neighbours are plaintiffs on this matter,” said Graham Lang, the lawyer representing the six residents. All together they own four properties bordering Cuthbert’s lot.

The lawsuit was filed on Nov. 15. with Stefan Angerer, Ursula Angerer, Leopold Selinger, Edeltraud Selinger, Gerry McGraw and Stefan Landfried listed as the plaintiffs.

Before Cuthbert moved to the neighbourhood in 2012, it was “primarily a quiet residential neighbourhood, with some small scale, low impact commercial activity such as cabin rentals,” the lawsuit reads.

Back in 2012 the News interviewed some of her neighbours who were already expressing concerns and frustrations over the noise the dogs made.

There were about 29 dogs at the rescue in 2012, Cuthbert told the News at the time. There are now around 80 dogs, she said during an interview in early November.

“As soon as Ms. Cuthbert moved in there were complaints,” Lang said.

There is no land use planning in Tagish, but that doesn’t mean neighbours can’t bring a nuisance claim, he said.

Instead of relying on a law or bylaw, in this case they can rely on common law, the law made from previous decisions judge made.

“Individuals are allowed to use their property in whatever lawful method they wish up until to a point when their use unreasonably interferes with neighbouring property,” Lang said.

The lawsuit is not just about the noise.

“In the spring and summer you have a number of dogs defecating and it builds up,” Lang said. “And apparently it smells quite bad.”

It is harder to prove the smell, Lang acknowledged, without getting a judge to go on location and take a whiff.

But “the main issue is the noise,” Lang said.

Cuthbert made headlines recently in a case that pits her against a dog owner who accuses Cuthbert of having stolen her dog.

Cuthbert maintains the woman surrendered the dog to her. She then gave the dog up to be adopted, and it escaped during transport, she claimed. Cuthbert refused to comment by press time early this morning.

A friend of Cuthbert emailed the News saying the media were orchestrating a witch-hunt against Cuthbert and denying there were noise or smell issues.

“Prior to the filing of this suit at no time have any of the plaintiffs ever approached Ms. Cuthbert to discuss their concerns with her,” wrote Heidi Kulcheski.

The Angerers, don’t even live on the lot they own, she claimed.

Another, the Selingers, are Austrian and only reside in the territory during the summer months, she said.

She added that back in 2012 an attempt was made to mitigate the issue by installing a “a privacy/sound barrier fence” but the Selingers declined.

Kulcheski volunteers for Cuthbert’s rescue, and has at time used her services.

“I can hear the dogs, sometimes, I can hear the mushers dogs as well, but they are most certainly not negatively affecting my life,” she said.

“I think its time we stopped catering to the ‘not in my backyard’ mentality that is so prevalent in the Yukon these days.”

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com