Debate dogs a red-faced neighborhood
At times contentious, at times embarrassed, Autumn Oaks residents

fail to end their squabble over dog walking.


Article Courtesy of the St. Petersburg Times

Published June 4, 2004

HUDSON - They pondered the definition of excreta and what it does (or does not do) to their well-kept lawns. They debated property lines and leveled accusations of "malicious" doggy business and what surely is a new tactic in subdivision squabbling: retaliation by sprinkler.

Autumn Oaks is in a lather these days over dog waste, and for nearly two hours Wednesday evening, some 60 homeowners battled over the fine points. The drama-packed meeting at Shady Hills Community Center, however, ended without resolution.

But everyone seemed to agree on one thing: The controversy has created great embarrassment and negative publicity for Autumn Oaks.

Dennis Gugliotto, 53, summed up that sentiment. "People are laughing at us over this," he told the group. "This is ridiculous. We need to look at each other and say, "Are we children or are we adults?' "

A couple in the back of the room seemed to enjoy the spectacle, shaking their heads and snickering as residents debated the effects of urine. One woman said excrement from squirrels and foxes serves as a fertilizer, so why should dog waste be any different?

The issue surfaced last month when some residents complained that Vivian Bogul allows her dogs DoeD and Ginger to relieve themselves on their morning walks through the subdivision off County Line Road. Bogul picks up the poop but urine flows freely into the lawns. Ron Ruppe, a retired New York police officer, says urine kills the grass if it is not diluted with water, putting the homeowner in violation of deed restrictions. Tom Contino, who sits on the homeowners board, thinks likewise.

Which is why, he says, he turned on the sprinkler when Bogul's friend Linda Owsley walked by with her dog. She contends he soaked her intentionally. "I've never in my 63 years been treated like that," Owsley said.

Contino and Ruppe say the women deliberately bring dogs by their homes. "It's being done maliciously, that's the problem," Contino said, glaring at Bogul, who also sits on the board. The women and their supporters believe they have been singled out for reasons that are unclear.

The homeowners association board said in a letter to Bogul that it was a violation of the deed restrictions for people to let their dogs relieve themselves on the right-of-way in front of other people's homes. The association cited the restriction that states, "No noxious or offensive activity or nuisance shall be carried on, in or about any lot, unit or Common Area."

Bogul has 30 days to respond to the May 21 letter and has not yet done so. She sat stoically at the Thursday meeting, saying little - but with a tape recorder turned on in front of her.

More than a few people said dog walkers have blown things out of proportion and they simply need to exercise more control over their pets. "All we're asking for is courtesy and respect," Maureen Ruppe said.

"We do display courtesy," Bogul said Thursday. "We've always picked up behind our animals and there has never been or any evidence of damage from pee."