Not Working Out?

By Shoshana Olidort

Published February 03, 2006, issue of February 03, 2006.

Afeud over noisy dogs has turned into a case of alleged antisemitism in rural western Pennsylvania.

For years, neighbors have been filing complaints about the noise level from the Barber property, where husband and wife Mike and Paula run a dog kennel. The Barbers keep as many as 130 dogs at a time. Mike Barber told the Forward that he and his wife are the victims. He claimed that their home and property have been vandalized in recent months, and that the perpetrators have left antisemitic messages on the couple’s bathroom mirror and on their car windows.

Neighbors strongly denied any charges of antisemitism, saying that when they started complaining about the dogs, they were unaware that the Barbers were Jewish.

Kathy Friend, who lives across the road from the Barber property, complained that the noise level is so high, “I can’t sit in my living room with the windows shut and watch TV.” Friend said she and her husband considered moving, “but who is going to want to buy my house at this point?”

Barber countered that he “had a technician check the noise level, and it turns out that it’s not very loud.”

Local police have transferred the case to state police, who in turn have assigned the case to a criminal investigator. The investigator will look into the Barbers’ claims that their house was set on fire and that several of their dogs were poisoned.

Neighbors have suggested that the Barbers staged the break-ins — an allegation that the couple vehemently denies.

Still, Bernard Petrovsky, a state police lieutenant, is skeptical. “She said they were starting to carve swastikas in the couch,” Petrovsky said. “How could someone break in without anyone seeing this? Something doesn’t add up.”

The Barbers obtained a restraining order on the local dog warden and have filed a report with the FBI. They’ve also been in contact with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and with the regional office of the Anti-Defamation League, located in Cleveland. Barber told the Forward that although he and his wife have been “good citizens,” every time they report an incident, the police “refuse to collect evidence.”

“I’m skeptical about the police,” Betty Sue Feuer, regional director of the ADL, told the Forward. Feuer said that she “doesn’t have a solid feeling” about the case, because “it’s difficult to get straight answers” from all the parties involved.

The Barbers have said that they will move out or get rid of their dogs (they’re down to 40 already). Recently the family put up a sign saying that they will get rid of their dogs and put up a pig farm.



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