It's been quiet these past couple of months on Zimmerman Boulevard.
So quiet that a Tonawanda of Town Court judge issued a one-year conditional discharge Wednesday night for Barbara Creighton, a 77-year-old dog owner whose two pets have repeatedly gotten her into trouble with the law because of noise complaints to police.
But Town Justice Daniel T. Cavarello also warned Creighton that additional violations of the town's dog ordinance could land her back in court and facing more punishment. "I take no pleasure in doing so," Cavarello said.
During an Aug. 15 bench trial, Cavarello found Creighton guilty of violating a section of the dog ordinance that addresses habitual loud howling, barking, crying or whining. That conviction stemmed from a June 19 complaint that was signed by a police officer who was an "ear-witness" to the barking of Creighton's two large mixed-breed dogs late at night.
Since May 2009, Creighton has been found guilty of ordinance violations on nine occasions and paid hundreds of dollars in fines. A conviction this past July resulted in a 24-hour jail sentence, though Creighton was spared actual time behind bars because dates on court paperwork were regarded by Erie County Correctional Facility officials as "time served."
Tom Pilat, the town's animal control officer, said Wednesday morning that the last complaint to police was July 4. "I think she's finally gotten the message," Pilat said. "We're all happy, and the residents are happy."
Before Cavarello imposed sentence Wednesday, he also said he was pleased things had improved.
"I am certainly glad to see there's been a change in behavior and compliance," he said.
Creighton was asked if she had anything she wanted the judge to take into consideration.
"There's been no problems," Creighton said, explaining that she's now using a second device to discourage her dogs from barking excessively. She had already been under court order to use battery-powered "bark" collars that deliver small jolts of static electricity when they do.
Now, she also uses an ultrasonic training device that emits a signal heard only by dogs when they bark. She said she uses the devices around her yard.
After court Wednesday, Creighton was cautious about expressing relief about the outcome.
"I hope that they just behave themselves," she said of her dogs.