WATERVILLE — A Western Avenue man must pay more than $66,000 in penalties and legal fees for keeping 16 dogs at his home in violation of a city ordinance that allows only three dogs per household.

Paul Mann Sr., 46, who now has only three dogs, said in an interview Friday that he kept the 16 dogs because he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and physical problems because of his military service in Iraq and the canines were his therapy and support. The city tried to work with Mann over the last year to find homes for the pets, but Mann did not want to part with them, according to police Chief Joseph Massey, of the Waterville Police Department.

“He was just adamant that he was not going to get rid of the dogs,” Massey said Friday.

A Waterville District Court judge on March 23 ordered Mann pay the city $63,000 in penalties and $3,000 in legal fees, Massey said. He was assessed such a high sum because the city charged him $400 per day, from Nov. 10 to March 23, while he was in violation of city rules.

Mann had 21 days in which to appeal the case but did not, Massey said. Mann said he now will have to go on a payment plan in order to pay the more than $66,000 to the city.

A police officer went to Mann’s home Friday morning and determined he was in compliance with city rules, as he now has only three dogs, Massey said.

A teary-eyed Mann said Friday morning at his house that he gave several of his dogs away to family members and friends, as well as some to other people who wanted them after he advertised them on Craigslist. The back of the two-story house, which Mann and his wife, Francesca, own, has a fenced-in area where the dogs go outside. The home is on the First Rangeway end of Western Avenue.

Mann said he misses the animals a lot.

“I’m getting through,” he said. “We lost a dog Friday that we had 10 years. He died of a heart attack. It caught us all out of the blue. He was playing with our grandson and had a seizure. The vet said he had a massive heart attack.”

Massey said Mann’s neighbors about a year ago started complaining about the dogs barking and the stench of dog feces, particularly in warm weather. They also complained there were more flies in the area during the summer because of the feces on Mann’s property, Massey said. He said one woman reported a dog got loose and went after her.

The city’s animal control officer went to the house numerous times but did not see signs of any abuse or neglect or that the dogs were not being fed properly, according to Massey.

“But to have that many dogs in such a small area is not a good thing,” he said.

He said that at one time, Mann’s dogs had parvovirus, a highly contagious disease that affects dogs, and the animal control officer could not have taken the animals then.

Mann said he and his wife lost some dogs, including puppies, to the parvovirus.

The couple now has three dogs — Flower, Sofia and Brownie — and they will turn age 2 on July 4, according to Mann. They are a mix of American Staffordshire Terrier and black Labrador retriever and are from the same litter, he said.

“We gave away their father and their mother,” he said.

Mann said that when he had troubles from his PTSD, the 16 dogs would gather around him and some would lie on his body as if they knew he needed the support.

“I go to Togus for counseling and I’m on medication, but it’s not the same,” he said, referring to the VA Maine Healthcare System campus at Togus. “When I’m with the dogs, the noise stops, the thoughts. I’m comfortable in my own skin with them. My wife says I’m a whole different person when I’m with them.”

Mann said he served 15 years with the Maine Army National Guard and was part of the 133rd Engineer Battalion, which was in a mess hall in 2004 in Mosul, Iraq, when it was bombed, killing 22 people and wounding dozens of others.

Mann, who was medically-retired from the military in 2012, suffered neck and back damage while in the military, he said.

Meanwhile, he plans to work to change the city’s ordinance that allows a household to have only three dogs or fewer.

“I am fighting to get rid of the ordinance,” he said. “I emailed all of the councilors and city manager and mayor. I’m going to put out flyers and start a petition and force it.”

Mann said he thinks ordinances that allow only three dogs per household hurt people who foster or adopt animals.

“Why is three OK but four isn’t?” he asked.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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