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Dog fight headed to court

Daniel Fellows, 73, and his wife, Elaine, 62, are fighting the Gull Aire Village homeowners association’s one-dog rule to keep their two Italian greyhounds, Precious, shown, and Mistyblue, both 6.

Eileen Schulte | Times

Daniel Fellows, 73, and his wife, Elaine, 62, are fighting the Gull Aire Village homeowners association’s one-dog rule to keep their two Italian greyhounds, Precious, shown, and Mistyblue, both 6.

OLDSMAR — Will it be Bellagio or Chutney?

Mistyblue or Precious?

Two of the dogs are being evicted from Gull Aire Village mobile home park because their owners violated the community's one-pet rule.

But wait a minute, say the dog owners.

Daniel and Elaine Fellows, owners of Mistyblue and Precious, say they were grandfathered in and thus exempt because a real estate agent with ties to the developer told her it was okay to have two dogs years ago.

Rick Mullins, the owner of Bellagio and Chutney, said he never knew about the regulation at all because a real estate agent who was eager to sell him his home did not tell him, even though he asked about the park's rules.

The dog owners say they and others who have had more than one pet have been harassed by an overzealous homeowners association board and a park president who rides around in a golf cart searching for the most minute infractions.

Elaine Fellows calls park president Sandy Larson and other board members "the gestapo.''

Mullins calls them "communists.''

Larson would not comment, other than to say, "I didn't know there was a problem.''

Neither would homeowners association lawyer Monique Parker.

Bob Lyttle, a board member, said there is "a lot of pressure on the board.''

"There are a lot of people who say it's a one-pet community, let's keep it that way,'' he said.

In February, the board rejected a proposal to allow residents in the 626-unit park to own more than one pet.

• • •

Before Rick Mullins bought his Gull Aire Village mobile home three years ago, he said he asked his real estate agent about the ordinances. He said the agent never told him about the one-pet rule, so he and his dogs, Bellagio, a 6-year-old cockapoo-Shih Tzu mix, and Chutney, a 9-year-old cockapoo, moved in.

"I asked the Realtor, 'This is a deed-restricted community. What do I need to know?' '' he said. The agent answered, "Just that you have to be 55 or over.''

Six months later, the homeowners association sent him a slip advising him of the one-pet limit.

The two sides tried mediation in 2006, but it failed.

"I told them they were a bunch of communists,'' Mullins said. "I was in the United States Navy. I fought for this country for 4 1/2 years and it's as if I didn't belong here.''

Because he didn't comply, the homeowners association billed him $3,700 for legal fees, phone calls and faxes.

He won't pay it. A court date is set for Monday, but Mullins said his lawyer is trying to get it postponed.

He has tried to come up with a few solutions. He put his home up for sale but no one bought it.

And three months ago, he sent Chutney to live with his daughter.

But the dog was distraught about being separated from her family.

"Chutney revolted,'' Mullins said. "She started wetting on the floor, she climbed over the baby gate and ate an ant trap, then threw up on my daughter's new couch. She didn't want to be there.''

Chutney came home and has been fine since, he said.

• • •

Mullins said all the stress caused health problems, and in May, he had to undergo heart surgery.

So did Daniel Fellows, 73, who also has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He is on oxygen, takes 23 pills a day and cannot walk more than a few steps.

After he and his wife, Elaine, 62, moved into their mobile home 20 years ago, their dog died.

Six years ago, they replaced him with Precious, who looks like a tiny race dog.

"A while down the road, a breeder asked if we could take a dog with a fractured jaw,'' said Elaine Fellows. "I got it in writing from the Realtor it was okay.''

Ever since, the couple say, they have been harassed by the board so much so that Daniel Fellows' cardiologist wrote a letter asking them to back off because having the companionship of both dogs will aid in his healing process.

The couple said the board responded by demanding to know Daniel Fellows' diagnosis, his prognosis and a list of all 23 medications he takes.

That's when the Fellowses decided to sue. They've hired a lawyer and are in the process of filing suit.

"I felt they had pushed it too far,'' said Elaine Fellows. "The doctor said these letters are going to kill him.''

Lyttle, the board member, said 10 homeowners were sent letters telling them to get rid of their pets.

"Eight of 10 have agreed,'' he said. "We're down to two.''

The Fellowses have no plans to give in.

"It would kill them to be separated,'' said Elaine Fellows of Mistyblue and Precious.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

Dog fight headed to court 09/12/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 7:01pm]
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