Kennel ordinance changes tabled

Veterinarian Dr. Mitch Foster rose to speak several times on behalf of the ordinance.

On April 15, a kennel ordinance rewrite draft first publicly addressed in February and again in March was tabled for discussion in May after a sizable showing of citizens voiced that they were against the changes.

Ann King, a local breeder, said the proposed kennel ordinance changes were reportedly designed to discourage “puppy mills,” or commercial breeding enterprises that put profit over animal welfare. Current ordinances already cover unfit conditions for animals, she said, and yet the proposed changes shift the focus to number of animals regardless of living conditions, creating an undue burden for breeders and hunters despite not being the intended target of the ordinance.

A good dozen hunters attended the meeting and displayed disapproval of the proposed changes. One said hunting dogs are like sports teams where they have to keep up the roster and not every one of them makes the cut, requiring a larger number of animals at any given time. Another hunter said he spends enough of his money keeping the dogs healthy and fed to have to be taxed for things he has done all his life without the extra expense. Several said the majority shouldn’t be punished for the actions of a few.

A hunter who went by the name Coleman said if there must be a cap, if a number must be given, then have it be at least 30 dogs.

Coleman asked his fellow hunters how many believed 30 dogs was a fair number and to show their support by standing. Most stood.

Commissioner Steve Oestreicher asked about commercial breeders. What should their number be? King had said other states used 20 as their benchmark for number of animals sold (and 60 held) in a year.

Oestreicher asked members of the audience to stand if they thought 20 was a fair number of dogs for commercial breeders to sell in a year. Few stood.

A hunter in the crowd said they were there to represent hunters and to ask a commercial breeder, not them.

Veterinarian Dr. Mitch Foster said he was involved in the crafting of the proposed changes. His number was 12 dogs. Above that amount, he said the owner should pay $50 to register their kennel. Once registered, a kennel could be randomly inspected at any time to check for animal wellness compliance.

King said offenders wouldn’t register and so only law-abiding citizens would be punished.

“I also work as a vet-tech in Burlington,” she said. “My breeds of choice [are] rough collie and smooth collie. I have dogs who have become certified service dogs to help those with disabilities. I have puppies in probably about 17 different states. And not a single one was ever shipped. Every one of them was picked up in my yard.”

King said she spends at least $1,500 per dog and much more than that to construct and keep up her kennel. Others in the audience said they also put money into concrete pads and amenities for their dogs.

Dr. Foster said good animal caretakers like those in attendance would undoubtedly pass inspections but any who mistreated their animals would face the chance of being reported. With the proposed changes in place, animal control officers could inspect and fine owners every single day until compliance.

King said animal control officers are already empowered under the current ordinances. If animals aren’t treated right (including a lack of food, water, and-or cleanliness), the owners could be reported and officers could come onto the property to enforce laws.

Commissioner David Owen said the issue needs to be dealt with but coming up with arbitrary numbers wasn’t the correct answer. He wanted more time to find more information and motioned to table a decision for a later date.

County attorney Brian Ferrell said there wasn’t a motion on the floor and the discussion was a part of the public comment section of the agenda. The board could make a motion and decision, table the discussion indefinitely, or do nothing.

Owen said the issue was important enough that he wanted the board to make an educated decision and soon.

The board unanimously voted to push back revising kennel ordinance language.