'Come live it before you judge'
THEY'VE been accused of being "whingers", "animal-haters" and even of having "mental issues", but the only thing a group of Eatonsville residents say they're guilty of is wanting to live in peace and quiet.
The group of families who live near the Happy Paws Haven pet shelter said they're sick of being vilified for making what they say are reasonable noise complaints about barking from the shelter.
The Daily Examiner recently reported Happy Paws owner Sally Rogers had been told by council to remove all dogs from her property by the end of the month in response to complaints from her neighbours about the barking.
Lyn and Tac Campbell, who live on a property adjoining the shelter, said since the article was published the group of neighbours as a whole had been the subject of negative, sometimes vitriolic comments made on Facebook pages and the Daily Examiner website.
Some comments brand the neighbours as being unreasonable or "whingers", but some have gone even further.
"There was even someone saying the neighbours out here must have mental issues; that's one comment that's really grated on us," Mrs Campbell said.
"We're also being labelled as animal haters - we run a horse stud, we breed pure-bred shelties, we have cats, we have sheep - all of the neighbours have dogs ourselves; we don't hate animals, we love animals."
Mrs Campbell said what really rubbed salt into the wound was most of the people making these comments lived nowhere near Eatonsville. She said they should come and stay near the shelter before they passed judgment.
Mr Campbell, a NSW Department of Primary Industries agronomist, said he and his wife, along with other neighbours in the area, felt their complaints were entirely reasonable. He said the dogs barked on and off, night and day and neighbours were becoming reluctant to use parts of their own properties for fear of setting the dogs off, which he said wasn't fair.
The Campbells said when the shelter was first moved to the area in 2009, neighbours had been told a limit of six dogs would be kept there at any given time, however, Ms Rogers won a case in the Land and Environment Court last year which ruled her property was zoned rural, removing the limit of dogs she could have.
Ms Rogers said she now temporarily housed about 25-32 dogs on average, but the Campbells said they and other neighbours felt it was too many for her three-quarter-acre block of land.
The main message the Campbells and their neighbours said they wanted to get across was they had no issue with the work Ms Rogers was doing but believed the shelter should be located where it wouldn't impact on neighbours.
Ms Rogers - who will attend a hearing in the Land and Environment Court in Sydney tomorrow to appeal the latest council order - said she believed the noise complaints were exaggerated.
She said that while the dogs under her care (along with the dogs belonging to her neighbours) did bark from time to time, they were always brought under control by herself or her volunteers quickly and did not bark "24/7", as claimed in a number of the complaints against the shelter.
Ms Rogers said she was happy to work with the council and her neighbours to sort out a "win-win" solution.
2006 - Sally Rogers establishes Happy Paws in Breimba St, Grafton
May 2009 - Ms Rogers moves Happy Paws to its current Eatonsville location
August 2011 - A move from council to close the shelter due to the number of animals exceeding zoning restrictions is overturned in the Land and Environment Court which finds Ms Rogers' property is zoned rural.
June 2012 - Council issues Ms Rogers with an order to remove all dogs from her property in response to noise complaints from neighbours.