Supervisors Experience Dog Days of August

The Clarke County Supervisors modified its zoning ordinances for breeding and boarding kennels on Tuesday night. Although the increased restrictions still leave Clarke as one of the most liberal jurisdictions in the area for raising canines, dog enthusiasts left the meeting threatening to cancel future dog show events. In other business, the Clarke County Supervisors adopted sweeping reforms to the county’s storm water management provisions intended to protect both local as well as regional resources.

Twenty-two dog enthusiasts filled the Clarke County Government Center to plead for the Supervisors to “let sleeping dogs lie” arguing that throughout the legislative process that produced the zoning changes not one citizen had voiced concerns about dog noise or other problems.

Alice Harrington addresses Supervisors at Tuesday night's hearing - Photo Edward Leonard

Planning Commissioner Cliff Nelson (Russell) spoke to remind the Supervisors that the Planning Commission had forwarded their proposed ordinance, approved by an 8-2 majority, with a 20-dog limit rather than the more restrictive 10-dog limit later proposed by the Board of Supervisors.

“At no time during the many months that the ordinance was worked on by the Planning Commission did any citizen come forward to offer a dog complaint,” Nelson told the Supervisors.

Alice Harrington, a representative for the Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders, once again offered her now oft-asked question about why the Supervisors were considering any change at all to the rules governing Clarke County’s dog breeding and boarding regulations.

“I started participating in the discussion of this issue in March 2010,” Harrington said. “In all that time and in all those meetings I did not hear one valid reason to justify this proposal to require a $5,000 special use permit from dog owners with 10 or more dogs who want to have a litter of puppies.”

At Tuesday’s session Harrington finally got her answer.

“The origin of the issue was generated by staff,” Planning Administrator Chuck Johnston said at the meeting. “Boarding kennels already require a special use permit for more than twenty dogs and staff saw the lack of a similar requirement for breeding kennels as inequitable.”

“To a neighbor it doesn’t matter if the kennel is boarding or breeding, dogs are dogs,” Johnston said.

Based on public comments at the hearing at least one citizen believed that the breeding restrictions were based on other motives.

James Lamphier said that his family had been raising Red Setters in White Post for over 50 years. Lamphier said that he currently has seven champion dogs over eight years old.

“These dogs are like our children,” Lamphier said. “If this new regulation is due to a falling out over dogs running loose from a hunt club then you need to settle your differences elsewhere,” Lamphier said.

Dave Simmons, who raises Dachshunds in Boyce, voiced a fear repeated several times by speakers during the meeting.

“I don’t want to be put into a position where I have to put my old dogs down because I can’t afford this fee.”

Jerry Howse, an officer of the Shawnee Kennel Club, voiced similar concerns. “We have seven dogs over ten years old that are no longer breed-able,” Howse said. “Without a special use permit we’d have to euthanize those dogs. That’s not right, these restrictions are totally unrealistic.”

Planning Administrator Johnston dispelled House’s concern later in the meeting by reassuring the attendees that zoning changes are always ‘future tense’.

“The zoning changes being considered tonight will not apply to any existing operations,” Johnston said. “If a resident can demonstrate that they were conducting the activity before the restrictions were adopted the activity will be ‘grandfathered’ under the previous rules.”

Although the Supervisors split on their decision to ultimately adopt the more restrictive regulations -Hobert (Berryville), Dunning (White Post) and Staelin (Millwood) in favor; Weiss (Buckmarsh ) and Bryd (Russell) opposed – the ordinance was weakened to apply to instances of 15 animals or more rather than the more restrictive ten initially considered.

Despite the quantity compromise resulting in a higher threshold before a special use permit will be required, many dog owners will still be dissatisfied with the Supervisor’s action.

“This wasn’t a compromise,” Alice Harrington said after the meeting. “This was a unilateral action.”

Jane Lodge, president of the Old Dominion Kennel Club, said that her club exhibits in tandem with the Shawnee Kennel Club and planned to follow Shawnee’s lead on where to host future dog shows.

“If Shawnee pulls out of exhibiting in Clarke County we’ll be forced to do so also,” Lodge said.

Jerry Howse said that the Shawnee Kennel Club will consider relocating its dog shows at venues other than Clarke County’s Ruritan Fairgrounds in the future.

“We’ve had meetings and discussed leaving,” Howse said. “The previous indication was that we would pull out if this change passed. Clarke County just became animal unfriendly.”

Even with the new zoning changes Clarke County’s rules are significantly less restrictive than neighboring jurisdictions. Warren County requires a special use permit for more than five dogs while Loudoun County restrictions begin with more than six dogs.

Although the new breeding and boarding regulations apply to cats as well as dogs, no enthusiast chose to defend the feline perspective.

In other business, the Supervisors unanimously passed the County’s new storm water management ordinance. Supervisor Dunning was not present for the vote.

Comments

  1. “In other business, the Supervisors unanimously passed the County’s new storm water management ordinance. Supervisor Dunning was not present for the vote.”

    Not surprising at all.

  2. Dogs are great, but please quit leaving them out at night to bark their heads off!

    • i have 9 dogs, and two of them just love to bark at the wild rabbits. the minute i hear them – day or night – they are brought inside. i wish i could say the same for my neighbors pet rottweiler who runs their fence and barks from 6am to 10pm, while i try to sleep during the day as i’m a night shift nurse.
      it’s all about being a good neighbor and a good dog owner – not about how many or whether you breed an occasional litter.

  3. Alice Harrington says:

    There are some errors here. It is NOT BOARDING kennels that had a 20 dog limit – it was BREEDING kennels. The new number – 15 – decreases the number of dogs one can have before having to get a Special Use Permit if you want to have a litter of puppies.
    __________________________
    See Section 9 – definitions of the zoning regs.

    http://www.clarkecounty.gov/images/ZO_Code_section_9.pdf

    9-B-102 KENNEL, Commercial Boarding
    A place designed or prepared to house, board, handle or otherwise keep or care for canine and/or feline animals in return for compensation. A Commercial Boarding Kennel shall be allowed only as an accessory use to a Single Family Detached Dwelling and shall be located not more than 200 feet from such a dwelling.

    9-B-103 KENNEL, Commercial Breeding
    A place designed or prepared to house or handle more than 20 canine animals for the purpose of breeding for sale in return for compensation. A Commercial Breeding Kennel shall be allowed only as an accessory use to a Single Family Detached Dwelling and shall be located not more than 200 feet from such a dwelling.
    _____________________________

    So that reason for changing things does not hold water. We STILL don’t know the real reason and we probably never will. And, yes, it is a unilateral action since the existing ordinance says 20 dogs as the threshold and the Kennel Committee and the Planning Commission all recommended maintaing the 20 dog threshold.

    It is really discouraging to work for months in good faith to come up with a solution that everyone agreed to and then be told by the Board majority — We know what it best for the county. You can talk but we aren’t listening! Only Mr Wise [CDN Editor: Weiss] and Ms Byrd stood up for dog owners’ rights to breed quality puppies without having to pay exhorbitant fees to do so.

    Alice Harrington

  4. Donna Watkins says:

    As always, it comes down to money. Hobby dog breeders are NOT rich and will find much better things than lining the government coffers to spend them money on. As with much dog legislation, this will harm dogs. If the issue was barking complaints, why not enforce the laws already on the books? Don’t worry- I know it’s all about the money so I won’t hold my breath waiting for an answer.

    As a local dog show exhibitor, I will back all measures to move the dog shows out of this dysfunctional and dog hating place.

    • Mayor Quinsby says:

      “why not enforce the laws already on the books? ” I’ll tell you why. our police force can’t enforce parking in handicapped spots, or in a fire lane, or speeding on route seven. [how many times have you been passed by that officer that must drive in the left lane?] Do you actually think they can remember to use their turn signal while eating their doughnut from Red Apple? Please, they have much more important things to worry about than shutting a barking dog.

      • Alice Harrington says:

        Ah yes – enforcement costs money. Much better to pass an ordinance that generates a revenue stream. $5,000 for a permit to breed a litter of puppies – sheer genius.

  5. I am wondering if anyone realizes that dogs shows in Virginia number about 500 per year? From AKC, it is estimated that over $31.86 million is generated annually within the Virginia economy from spending on purebred dogs in the state. One would have to certainly have more than 10 dogs to generate enough money to pay these fees. When one talks about dogs barking their head off all night….they are talking about irresponsible owners. I am sure there is already a barking ordinance, act on this, but to punish good owners for something that appears so vegan animal rights activated is a crime in itself. My working dog barks, I get up to see what is after my cattle! I am just wondering what the real agenda and the real reason for such laws that will make dog ownership impossible for some people!

  6. bestuvall says:

    When elected officials blatantly oppose the will of the people they need to be “unelected” .. when they impose fines and fees that are not commensurate with the action.. they need to be UNELECTED..when they refuse to answer question about their decisions like two year olds they should be UNELECTED.. when officials blatantly allow MONEY to be taken from their jurisdiction through legitimate means.. they should be UNELECTED.. when they are obviously CORRUPT and have an AGENDA that harms the populace.. they should be UNELECTED.. there are three here that fit the bill… you know what to do..

  7. Talk about “cutting off you nose to spite your face”. Clarke County has not done their homework. Dog shows/dog events bring money into a community through motels, (bed tax) restaurants, and other misc uses of the area by participants. An average weekend dogs show can earn a city two to five million in revenue. That is ONE dog show weekend. A large multi day show can earn up to ten million.

    I do not understand this need to alienate dog lovers/owners in todays cities/counties/states. Are all legislators anti pet? I do not believe that can be the case. I think they are getting bad data, perhaps they are “hanging” out with a bad crowd… HSUS, PETA? Or do they believe that the figures that they run on paper is the money realized – somehow the money needed for collection, enforcement is never plugged in… Once it is – there goes all the pretty money…

  8. I have NO sympathy for ANYONE who would euthanize a perfectly healthy dog just because he was no longer breedable. You should not be able to keep an animal if you could kill it simply because it doesn’t make you money anymore.

    • You missed the point. Not a breeder in that room (I was there) would have even considered euthanizing a single one of their old dogs. The point was that in order to continue their breeding programs, they would have to cut down on numbers somewhere. The euthanasia comment was to make a point: What were they supposed to do with the “excess” animals once Clarke County decided they were no longer welcome in the county? I guarantee you that the people in that room would leave Clarke County before putting their old folks to sleep. And many will do just that.

  9. time to vote says:

    Well I would say everyone needs to be sure the supervisors that voted for this totally biased and uncalled for law get voted out at the very earliest time.
    It’s unbelievable that our officials really have their own agendas and care nothing abouth the actual people in the community and what they have to say. Shame on them!