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Warren County seeks to change rules on kennels

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

Efforts to make rules for kennels in Warren County less confusing and easier to enforce hit a small snag.

The Planning Commission on Wednesday tabled action on proposed changes to the county zoning ordinance pertaining to kennels in the agricultural and rural residential districts. After holding a public hearing on the matter, the commission asked county staff to re-advertise the proposed amendment for another hearing. The matter likely will come up for the second public hearing in October, according to county officials.

The commission decided to add language to the proposed ordinance to exclude puppies up to 6 months old in the total number of dogs allowed in commercial kennels, according to Planning Director Taryn Logan. A litter of puppies could put a breeder over the limit of dogs allowed under a permit, Logan said Thursday.

The ordinance sought to differentiate between commercial and non-commercial kennels, according to Logan. Language pertaining to non-commercial kennels excludes puppies up to 6 months old from the total number of dogs allowed. However, as the commission learned, the language for commercial kennels did not contain the same exclusion and thus could limit these businesses to the number of dogs on the property, Logan explained.

The proposal as presented Wednesday sought to separate commercial establishments, sometimes called "backyard breeder," operating from a home within a small-lot subdivision on less than one acre. The county does not consider these dogs pets, but rather a commercial product offered as registered animals sometimes between $1,500 and $3,000 apiece from a personal website.

The zoning ordinance currently allows a kennel in the districts with a conditional-use permit. But the language does not distinguish between commercial and non-commercial use. The lack of a clear difference has confused residents and kennel owners, according to the planning department. The ordinance defines a kennel by a minimum number of dogs. However the ordinance does not set a maximum limit on the number of dogs permitted in a kennel, nor does the language give the county a means to determine the healthy amount of animals in the space available.

Warren County Planner Matt Wendling explained Thursday by email that the current kennel ordinance does not differentiate between types, which makes it a challenge to enforce against illegal kennels and breeding operations in the residential zoning district. The code currently allows four adult dogs, aged 6 months or older, throughout the county.

"By clearly defining non-commercial, commercial [breeding and boarding] kennels we can enforce the separate uses which are inclusive uses under a conditional use permit in the Agricultural and Rural Residential zoning districts," Wendling states. "They would then become exclusive uses in other residential zoning districts, which means we don't have to state in the ordinance that it is not allowed in those respective Zoning Districts."

The planning department established a sliding scale for the lot size and number of dogs by comparing ordinances of other adjacent localities and municipalities across the state, according to Wendling. The scale quantities vary between acreage and the non-commercial, commercial and board kennels, he states.

The county had one case of an illegal breeding operation in the past two years and a few instances of owners violating the by-right allowance of four adult dogs, according to Wendling. Zoning Administrator Erick Moore notified the property owners and brought them into compliance or they relocated out of the county, Wendling said.

The county has not experienced any instances of large-scale dog breeding, also known as "puppy mills" in the past few years, according to Wendling.

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