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Warren County: Officials debate dog kennel rules

Complaint prompts proposed changes to prevent the creation of 'puppy mills'

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County officials say they want to better regulate dog kennels and to prevent the creation of "puppy mills."

Over several months, Zoning Administrator Erick Moore has worked to craft changes to the county ordinance that would more clearly define the types of kennels allowed to operate.

The Planning Commission spurred these efforts after Moore, acting on a complaint filed this summer, discovered a resident housing approximately a dozen dogs in small cages as part of a kennel operation.

Moore's recommended changes that would define commercial, boarding and non-commercial kennels went through the process. The Planning Commission held a public hearing and discussed the proposed changes before recommending their approval to the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisors held a public hearing on the proposed changes on Tuesday. After the hearing the board asked for more information from staff and agreed to address the topic at a Jan. 2 work session. Supervisors also agreed to continue to public hearing to their regular meeting Jan. 15.

Kennel operators Mary Sellers and Wendy Tenney spoke at the public hearing on the proposed changes to the zoning ordinance. The county recently approved a conditional-use permit for Tenney to run a kennel from her Bentonville Home. Sellers has had a similar permit since 2010.

Moore recalled the kennel operators questioned whether the county should make them obtain conditional-use permits.

"From everything I heard and the negative comments it's more of why does Warren County require it and others don't," Moore said. "That's not true."

Moore's research has found that some other localities in Virginia either require a special permit to operate a kennel or at least to follow certain rules. Moore is preparing a chart listing kennel regulations in other localities.

The proposed and current county regulations do not differ greatly, according to Moore. However the current ordinance does not separate the three kinds of kennels. Moore sought to define private and commercial kennel; the commission asked him to add boarding to the definition.

As Moore noted, Tenney and Sellers and any other kennel operator holding a conditional-use permit are grandfathered in under the current regulations as written.

Kennels grew more popular as a business in recent years. The county approved one conditional-use permit to operate a kennel per year since 2006, according to Moore. This year they have received two permit requests and approved one. Moore attributes the trend to the bad economy.

But this summer the Warren County Sheriff's Office received complaints that a resident ran a kennel with 27 dogs in basement. When Moore responded to the residence he discovered a dozen large dogs in crates that appeared smaller than allowed.

Moore said he's included in the proposed ordinance supplemental requirements that mirror regulations set by the state. But as Moore explained, citing an opinion by County Attorney Blair Mitchell, the local government can set forth regulations on kennels more stringent than those at the state level.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


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