If you’ve had dogs for any length of time then chances are at some point you have had a bad neighbor. You know the kind – someone who always finds a reason to complain about your dogs even if they aren’t doing anything. Now imagine if you had a neighbor with other motives. Perhaps your neighbor wanted you and your dogs gone to increase property values. Or maybe your neighbor had animal rights views. Then you might know how Dr. Alison Brown feels.
Dr. Brown, in Chaffee County, Colorado, is in that situation now. Dr. Alison Brown is an engineer, world-renowned for her work on GPS and satellite navigation. She has taught courses on GPS at UCLA; worked on projects for the U.S. military, and founded her own company called NAVSYS. She does much to promote small businesses, as well as women in science and technology. And, for dog lovers, she worked with a student design team from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS) Bachelor of Innovation program to develop a prototype GPS collar for tracking hounds while hunting, before Garmin introduced their GPS-based tracking system.
Dr. Brown has contributed a lot to her community. She is also a Master of Foxhounds with the Master of Foxhounds Association (MFHA). Her pack, the Headwaters Hounds, is registered with the MFHA. They hunt coyotes and jackrabbits on US Forest Service land. And she has a bad neighbor.
The problems started for Dr. Brown as soon as her neighbor, Chris Vely, bought the property near Salida, Colorado in 2016. According to Dr. Brown, she knew Vely prior to the purchase and had even hired his wife, Laura Barton, to create her company logo. She considered them friends and was very happy they were buying the 40 acres near her property. All that changed when Vely started complaining about her dogs’ barking as soon as he moved in.
Since that time there have been three tickets from the sheriff which Dr. Brown fought and won. One charge was dismissed and Dr. Brown was found not guilty for the other charges at trial. There is a pending civil suit over noise levels. Vely has recorded audio of her dogs barking from his home in an attempt to show the decibel levels that can be heard on his property. However, Dr. Brown was building a hay barn on her rural ranch property to try to reduce the sound of any barking when the recordings were made. The construction sounds made the noise levels on the recordings higher than normal. When Dr. Brown asked to have her own decibel tests done, repeating the tests without the construction noise, Vely refused permission to come onto his property to make new recordings. Dr. Brown’s attorney had to file a legal motion to gain access to Vely’s property to take their own recordings.
Dr. Brown, as the Master of Foxhounds of Headwaters Hounds, currently has 26 Foxhounds which she keeps for foxhunting. One-third of her dogs are retired. She is not a dog breeder. Her hounds are kept for recreational/working purposes and she hunts the pack in the surrounding area, on public lands – which is perfectly legal – with other riders as spectators.
Although Dr. Brown does not breed dogs on her property, she was formerly licensed as a breeder in Colorado because the state had no category that fit her dogs. This caused the county commission to claim that she was a breeder. After talking to the Colorado Department of Agriculture and explaining what was happening, they reclassified her kennels as a sanctuary. The Department of Agriculture has initiated a rulemaking for a new license category in Colorado – a Working Dog category for Foxhounds, sled dogs, hunting dogs, and other working dogs, thanks to Dr. Brown’s efforts.
You can view the property and an earlier interview with Dr. Brown here
In 2017 Vely convinced the Chaffee County council to pass a new ordinance that requires Brown to get rid of all but seven of her dogs. The County has also filed for a court order to ban her from training dogs on her property. In a breathtaking bit of overreach for a local council, it also bans her from hunting on federal land. It’s anyone’s guess how a county council can ban a U.S. citizen from hunting on the federal property.
There are more than 30 articles and other notices about Dr. Brown and her dispute with her neighbor and the county in the last year in the local newspaper, The Mountain Mail of Salida, Colorado. And the dispute has been going on for nearly two years.
Dr. Brown sees the attacks from her neighbor and the local council as more than a neighbor dispute. She believes it’s an attack on her way of life.
In an earlier statement on the situation, Vely said: “I started an online petition to end fox hunting and cubbing in Chaffee County and Colorado. And why? Because of the uncontrolled nuisance dog barking yelping, howling and whining emanating from Brown’s illegal kennels at all hours of the day and night.”
Vely’s online petition has garnered thousands of signatures but Dr. Brown says the petition is based on complete misrepresentations of her hunting activities. While the petition is framed as being concerned about wildlife, with lots of comments from animal rights activists and people who oppose hunting, it’s actually a self-serving way to further Vely’s obsession with the alleged noise made by Dr. Brown’s dogs.
According to Dr. Brown, Vely may have other motives for his complaints. “I don’t think they have any issue with fox hunting. I think this is all about … having the kennels here. They think if they get rid of the kennels their property will go up in value, and so this is all actions to kick me off my property,” she said.
According to Lt. Col. Dennis J. Foster, Executive Director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA):
“This is a travesty of justice that was allowed to progress by the influence of animal rights support. They were able to put pressure on local officials using information that was and is clearly false. Through emails, petitions and likely financial support and advice to the complainant they’ve been able to hide the true motivation behind this and slander Dr. Brown violating her rights and the rights of others benefiting from this activity. Complicating the issues are a very liberal/bias media and a county board that are completely ignorant on animal welfare versus animal rights issues and the real motivation behind this attack. The county just wants this to go away and their solution is to remove the hunt. It has nothing to do with noise or any county regulations and all to do with a neighbor landowner who hopes to capitalize financially on removing her for his own profit. The evidence at the last trial clearly exhibited his false information, real motivations and his attempts to make the set up a situation by teasing hounds, using coyote lures and verbal attacks on Brown’s employees and friends to justify his lawsuit. If they are successful with removing this hunt it will set a precedent for other animal rights organizations to use it as a blueprint to remove or ban all types of hunting with hounds.”
Dr. Brown is now waiting for a court date in January to see if she will have to get rid of her hounds or if she and her legal team will be able to stop the county commissioners from banning her from hunting on public lands. Dr. Brown is fighting to be able to continue hunting with her hounds and living the life she loves. It seems that no matter how successful you are, animal rights zealots, people who are anti-hunting, and those with other motives can still conspire to abuse the legal system and attack animal owners.