Moray Council has been trying to get an Asbo which would force Andrew Debidin to get rid of all but three of his pack, which live next to his caravan near Keith.
The council had claimed the sound of his animals barking, yelping and howling was causing or was likely to cause “alarm and distress” to his neighbours.
But Sheriff Susan Raeburn said that although the pack slept with him in the caravan, and he was “effectively the leader of the pack”, his neighbours had “unreasonably low tolerance or unreasonably high sensitivity” to his animals and lifestyle.
She defended Mr Debidin under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone has a right to respect for his private and family life.
Sheriff Raeburn said: “The law in relation to the understanding of and application of ‘human rights’ is evolving constantly. I hesitate to express an opinion as to whether the respondent’s chosen lifestyle falls within the legal definition of ‘family life’.
“I have absolutely no doubt that the respondent’s day to day routine at Woodhead Compound is, as a matter of fact, his family life. It is an unusual family life: by some it might, perhaps, be perceived to be unsavoury. Perception is not the same as reality. Misinformation distorts reality. The reality is that the respondent’s lifestyle at Woodhead Compound does not amount to anti-social behaviour.
“The respondent’s lifestyle choice is not ‘pro-social’ in the sense that for the respondent his community is his pack of dogs. In my view, however, the respondent’s lifestyle is deserving of respect whether or not it falls within the legal definition of ‘family life’ and in my considered opinion, there is no justification for interference with the respondent’s lifestyle.”
Neighbours first raised concerns about Mr Debidin’s dogs when they heard him moving into his Woodhead Compound in August 2006 with what they thought to be ‘a truck load of noisy turkeys’.
Following a formal complaint, Moray Council carried out an investigation into the noise and sent Mr Debidin a warning letter in February 2008, advising him that there was evidence to confirm the concerns were justified because his dogs continually barked at all times of day and night. The letter went on to say that no further action would be taken unless the council received more complaints.
Mr Debidin was then issued with a letter on behalf of the council’s Chief Legal Officer in April 2008, warning him that if he continued to allow his dogs to bark at an excessive level, the local authority would apply to the Sheriff Court for an Asbo against him. The application for an Asbo was lodged in August 2008.
Mr Debidin had received an Asbo prohibiting him from owning or keeping dogs for two years in 2005 when he lived at the Steading, Ardesier. Despite appealing the decision, he was told that he would have to remove the dogs from the property by August 2006.
Moray council leader Allan Wright said: “I am disappointed with the sheriff’s ruling and, quite frankly, find it difficult to comprehend.
“Moray Council was reacting to a plea from a number of our constituents about the noise and distress caused by this pack of dogs. We will always try to do what we feel necessary in the best interests of the people of Moray.
“For the sheriff to talk about a lifestyle that centres on a man being the leader of a pack of 47 large dogs and that his human rights entitle him to that lifestyle whatever the effect on neighbours is, for me, a clear demonstration of what is wrong with human rights legislation.
“This case has taken four years to conclude, far longer than we had anticipated although there were only eight witnesses. There will be a considerable taxpayer cost.”
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