Shelley Cuthbert, the owner of a controversial dog kennel in Tagish, Yukon, says there's only so much she can do to keep the noise down when her dozens of penned animals get riled up.
Cuthbert is in Yukon Territorial Court this week, defending herself against a group of neighbours who want to shut her kennel business down. The neighbours say the "mass of braying dogs" disturbs their peace and threatens their safety.
Cuthbert offered no apology for her animals and told court on Thursday the noise is far from constant, and is often provoked by the neighbours themselves.
"They only bark at certain times," she said. "If there's stranger danger near the property, they let me know."
Cuthbert, who is representing herself, accused other people of "inciting" the dogs by approaching her fence to videotape the animals, racing their vehicles past her property, firing guns, or setting off bear-bangers.
"It's very frustrating to me, because I don't intentionally make the dogs bark. If I'm not home I can't control every situation," she said.
"My dogs do bark, there's no doubt they bark. They're dogs."
She also claimed that she's been the victim of "minor mischief and vandalism" at her rural property, with people throwing garbage at her, and eggs at her truck.
She noted two of her dogs died mysteriously, one of which might have been from antifreeze poisoning.
A needed service, Cuthbert says
Cuthbert's neighbours are seeking a court injunction that would strictly limit the number of animals she could keep, and require her to keep them all inside at night.
Several neighbours testified in court earlier this week and described feeling terrorized by the animals, wondering when any of them might break loose.
Cuthbert admits that some of her dogs have deeply-ingrained behavioural problems and have been with her for a long time. Other dogs she has trained and adopted out.
Cuthbert submitted piles of documents as evidence, intending to show that her facility is well-run and provides a needed service.
The evidence included animal welfare investigation reports, affidavits, and about 50 letters of support from people who had used her kennel service or visited the property.
She told court she works to rehabilitate problem dogs and find appropriate homes for them.
'This is normal behaviour'
Cuthbert also entered hundreds of photos and videos as evidence.
Some showed how the dogs bark "at certain times," such as when Cuthbert gets home. Rarely do they bark for more than 20 minutes, she said.
"They're excited, this is normal behavior for a dog," she said.
Other videos showed the fencing around Cuthbert's property, and her living quarters, which she shares each night with dozens of dogs, some of them in crates and some running loose in the house. About 15 dogs — her "night crew," she said — spend the night outdoors.
Justice Leigh Gower said he had a hard time following some of Cuthbert's video evidence and some of her documents would not carry much weight in his deliberations.
Gower also told Cuthbert that, at times, her testimony was rambling and going on a bit long. He warned her that "there may be a point where I just cut you off."
The civil trial, which started Tuesday, is expected to wrap up Friday afternoon.