Woman who lost 36 dogs in Bristol faced complaints in Mass.


BRISTOL — A woman being investigated by police after losing 36 dogs in two fires this fall, previously faced complaints involving a kennel she operated in Massachusetts.

Jennifer “Bobbi” Choate lost 29 German shepherds on Wednesday when fire swept through a Chestnut Street cottage where they were being kept. Previously, on Nov. 22, nine dogs died in a fire in a house on the same property.

“I came here for peace and serenity,” Choate said Thursday. “I’ve been here every day for 14 hours a day for my animals.”

Choate previously operated Tarawoods Kennel and Harmon Stables in Halifax, Massachusetts.

According to published reports, her neighbor, Scott Clawson, who also had stables, was unhappy about hearing barking dogs and complained when the local zoning board granted a special permit to allow Choate to open the kennel in July 2010.

The permit allowed her to have 15 adult dogs and produce two litters per year. She was ordered to provide soundproofing and keep the dogs on the property.

Clawson erected a berm along the property line, using manure, stumps, and dirt. After a half-buried tree fell on the kennel, the Massachusetts Board of Health ordered Clawson to remove the berm or to hire a civil engineer to ensure the berm was stable.

Six years later, Clawson filed a suit against the Halifax Zoning Board of Appeals and Choate (also known as Jennifer Harmon), alleging that, between mid-2010 and 2016, the zoning board had approved several changes in the permit without notifying parties of interest about the hearings.

From the time of the original permit to October 2016, the number of dogs permitted increased from 15 adults to 50, and the number of puppy litters allowed increased from two to 26. The kennel had asked to increase the numbers to 100 adults and unlimited litters, but Choate withdrew the application.

As the court battle continued, Choate launched a GoFundMe page, seeking $10,000 to cover the legal costs. The campaign failed, raising only $600 from her supporters, and the case ended with an order to remove 25 of her breeding dogs.

On March 8 of this year, an outbreak of parvovirus, which Choate said was likely brought into the kennel by a visiting dog, killed two adult dogs and eight puppies. The kennel was placed under quarantine through the end of the month.

Bristol officials say Choate had six German shepherds here as pets before she began advertising that she was moving her kennel to New Hampshire.

The town received a complaint in October, alleging that there more than 50 dogs on the property and that they were not being fed properly and had medical problems.

Bristol police executed a search warrant, accompanied by officers from Danbury and Alexandria, representatives from the SPCA and New Hampshire Humane Society, and volunteers. A veterinarian evaluated all of the animals and found no major problems, according to Lt. Kris Bean.

“We could not charge her, but the town was concerned about the number of animals,” Bean said.

Alexandria police executing a similar warrant for Choate’s property on Burns Hill Road found about 30 dogs but also found no chargeable violations.

The town’s land use office informed Choate that she would need to apply for a special exception to operate a kennel, or get rid of all but her original six pets.