Kennel permit under scrutiny

Warren County officials could revoke a kennel owner’s permit, though local zoning officials now appear willing to talk with the dog breeder.

Wendy Tenney lost 16 of her Australian shepherds in the March 6 fire that destroyed the kennel for her dog-breeding operation at 63 Limeton Church Road, Bentonville . Prior to the fire, Planning Department staff found the kennel violated some of the conditions required under the permit that allows Tenney to run the operation. Tenney has disputed  some of the department’s claims, saying she was not aware of any violations.

The Board of Supervisors heard about the situation at its meeting Tuesday. Planning Director Taryn Logan expressed sympathy for Tenney after providing the board with a timeline of her department’s visits to and inspections of the kennel.  Logan voiced a willingness by her department to work with Tenney

“Our planning staff has been truly so sorry for Miss Tenney’s loss of her dogs and the tragic accident and we’re animal lovers as well and our staff has been very distraught,” Logan told the board. “The conditional-use permit was issued through our office and we feel that it is our continued responsibility to review that permit and to determine if a revocation is required, if maybe additional conditions need to be added.”

The county would need to hold a public hearing on any recommendation to revoke Tenney’s permit, Logan said. The director asked the Board of Supervisors to refer the matter to the Planning Commission for further review. The extra time should give the department officials time to discuss the matter with the kennel owner, Logan said. The commission could recommend revocation, add conditions to the permit or instruct department staff to continue monitoring the situation.

Board Chairwoman Linda Glavis asked Tenney to speak even though the item was not up for a public hearing at the meeting.

Tenney claimed that department staff told her verbally and by mail that her kennel remained in compliance with the permit conditions 19 days before the fire.

“If I had known that I was not in compliance, I would have taken steps to take care of that,” Tenney said. “The items listed, to me and to others, that I sought counsel with, there’s not enough verification; there’s not enough consistency.”

Glavis interjected before Tenney could continue.

“I think Mrs. Logan is acknowledging that so I think what our board would like to hear is if you would be willing to work with the Planning (Department),” Glavis said.

“I’m willing to work with them to get back to where we need to be,” Tenney said. “My goal is to get back to where I was. My children deserve it. I feel I deserve it. Zoning deserves it.”

The board then voted to refer the permit to the Planning Commission for further review.

A letter from Logan to Tenney dated Aug. 29 indicates that, while the department sympathizes with the owner, the kennel did violate the conditions of the permit even before the fire.

“There is no doubt that this was a tragic and very unfortunate accident and we offer our condolences over your loss,” the letter states. “In review of the information we have in our county files, we do feel that the matters brought to your attention during previous visits … should have been addressed at that time.”

The department recommended that the Board of Supervisors revoke Tenney’s permit, according to county documents.

“We gave documented a pattern of non-compliance in addressing matters related to the general health and welfare of your animals,” the letter states. “We are extremely saddened by the fire that took the lives of your 16 dogs. We are disappointed that conditions on the permit have not been met through the years and the proper permits and precautions were not taken prior to the fire.”

Supervisors voted on Nov. 20, 2012 to approve a conditional-use permit requested by Tenney to run a commercial dog kennel for breeding Australian shepherds at 63 Limeton Church Road, Bentonville.

Warren County Animal Control officers made previous visits to the property prior to the fire to review the conditions of the kennel in response to noise complaints from neighbors. Officers discovered problems with housing, hygiene and non-compliance with county code related to dog licenses. Officers found during one site visit that a space heater used in the kennel showed frayed wiring possibly caused by dogs chewing on the cord. Planning and Zoning Department employees made follow-up visits and found too many dogs in the kennel, a lack of tags, inoperable bark collars and a general lack of order or cleanliness of the property in violation of the conditions of the permit.

The county sent Tenney a violation notice via certified mail, which she received Aug. 31. The notice gave Tenney 60 days to provide in writing reasons why the county should not terminate the conditional-use permit.

Logan’s Aug. 29 letter states that her department found Tenney had not purchased dog tags for the animals in 2015 and 2016. The department notified Tenney about the need to purchase tags and it took her two months to comply, the letter states. A county animal control officer visited the property Nov. 25 in response to barking and odor complaints and gave Tenney notice to clean up and remove feces from the kennel. The officer also pointed out that the concrete pads did not appear sealed and the rough surface hurt the animals’ paws.

The kennel also consistently held more dogs than the 11 allowed under the permit, Logan states.