Originally created 06/04/99

Neighbors cancel dog lawsuits



BELVEDERE -- A former Belvedere man who filed a $5,000 lawsuit against his neighbor for emotional distress over her barking dogs dropped the suit Thursday, saying he just wanted to end the feud.

Rick Bernardi was scheduled to make his case before Magistrate Roger Edmonds on Thursday morning, but former neighbor Shirley Andrews requested a jury trial, an action that promised to drag the case out for several more weeks.

Mr. Bernardi told Judge Edmonds that he would dismiss the suit if Mrs. Andrews agreed not to sue him. She agreed.

In his suit, Mr. Bernardi claimed he suffered emotional distress over his former neighbor's 10 dogs on Audubon Circle.

He claimed the barking dogs caused him to lose sleep while irritating the post-traumatic stress disorder he suffers after serving in the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War.

The suit also alleged that Mrs. Andrews defamed his character by claiming to neighbors that he shot a rifle in his backyard.

Mrs. Andrews denied the accusations and filed a motion of her own this week.

"I ask the case to be dismissed because it would continue to enthrall a community in matters that were all created by Mr. Bernardi," she wrote in a motion to the court. "And now that he has moved and me as well, the matter would serve the needs of us all better if it was dismissed," she wrote.

Mrs. Andrews was at the center of a dogfight in the Belvedere Ridge community during the past year, pitting neighbors on opposite sides, necessitating police involvement a dozen times and forcing Mr. Bernardi to move to Edgefield County to escape the brouhaha.

For the year and a half she lived on Audubon Circle in Belvedere, complaints from neighbors resulted in her arrest three times for animal nuisance violations.

Mrs. Andrews appealed one conviction and must answer an animal nuisance charge filed by the Aiken County Sheriff's Office. That case is scheduled to be heard next week.

Mrs. Andrews has claimed the arrests were part of a conspiracy against her by Mr. Bernardi and the Animal Control department that crossed the line in its use of the revised county nuisance ordinance.

Mrs. Andrews, who rescues stray dogs, left Aiken County two weeks ago for a larger home in Columbia County. She took her 10 dogs and 13 cats with her.

Greg Rickabaugh covers crime for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.