Planners try to simplify kennel enforcement

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 17, 2007

COURTLAND—Hearings on dog kennel license requests have turned into an excuse for neighbors to bring their squabbles into the public arena, planners said Thursday. They recommended that the process be changed to reduce the likelihood that elected officials wind up arbitrating disputes between neighbors.

During the past year or two, the county’s planning commission often has been the site of pitched battles between county residents seeking kennel licenses and their aggrieved neighbors. Those confrontations have been repeated at Board of Supervisors meetings, contributing to long, often contentious public hearings.

Upon supervisors’ request for a better way of dealing with dogs, the Planning Commission directed Assistant County Administrator Jay Randolph to study the issue and report on some alternatives.

Thursday, Randolph recommended that the county consider allowing dog kennels to be handled administratively, without involving either the Planning Commission or the Board of Supervisors.

&uot;There can be some real contentious issues,&uot; Randolph acknowledged. &uot;But if we move slowly and deliberately, we can come up with reasonable standards.&uot;

Randolph first suggested that the current dog kennel category be broken into private kennels — for people with more than five pet dogs they do not intend to sell — and commercial kennels — for those who breed and sell dogs or who keep many dogs, as with hunt clubs.

Each classification would be subject to certain standards, and those wishing to get a kennel license would have to prove they meet those standards in order to get administrative approval.

For those who do not meet all of the standards, Randolph said, a notice could be sent to neighbors to get their input. If the neighbors had no objections, the license would be granted. Those whose neighbors object to the kennels would be able to appeal an administrative rejection to the Board of Zoning Appeals. That board’s decision could then be appealed to the Circuit Court.

&uot;I kind of like your vision,&uot; Commissioner Michael G. Drake said when Randolph had finished his presentation.

Director of Community Development Robert L. Barnett pointed out that even the commission’s most careful review of such permits will not guarantee there is never a problem with a licensed dog kennel.

&uot;Even a conditional use permit does not control the activity of animals,&uot; he said. &uot;The animal control officer does that.&uot;

Planners had asked for a list of standards for private and commercial kennels.

&uot;The bottom line is the Board of Supervisors has got a lot of other important things to do,&uot; Chairman Alan W. Edwards said.