Zoning as a Way to Regulate Pet Mills?

Scott Good wants to operate a commercial dog breeding business in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. He wants to breed and sell English bulldogs.

To operate this business called a kennel under Pennsylvania law on agriculturally zoned land, he is required to obtain a special exception. Good applied for a special exception and a hearing was held before the Heidelberg Township Zoning Hearing Board.

The  Zoning Board’s Decision

The Board granted the special exception and in doing so, imposed certain conditions for the health and welfare of the dogs, including the following:  

The number of dogs permitted is limited to 16. (The town obviously wants to keep out large mills where humane care is impossible and dogs are nothing more than inventory for the pet trade.)           

Breeding is permitted only by artificial insemination; natural breeding is prohibited. (Surely, this would help protect against disease.)

Hand feeding instead of relying on automatic feeders is required so the dogs don’t overfeed and they receive some human interaction.

Exercise is required.

The kennel must be kept clean and sanitary. 

Temperatures in the kennel must be maintained at between 68-degrees and 75-degrees at all times. 

There will be unannounced inspections of the kennel at least twice a year.  

Dogs cannot be allowed outside between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.  

There are limits on the number of dogs per enclosure to avoid overcrowding.   

Dead dogs must be properly disposed of and not simply buried on the farm. 

Dog waste must be properly disposed of and not spread on food crops as fertilizer. 

The permit was said to be non-transferable, meaning any puppy miller who buys the property must apply for his own permit. 

Good’s Appeal 

These requirements seem simple enough, acceptable to anyone interested in humane care for the dogs. But Good appealed the conditions of the special exception. Judge Samuel Kline ruled in favor of the zoning board but did allow the permit to be transferred to a new owner and said Good could spread dog waste as fertilizer.

Good has appealed Judge Kline’s ruling.

Good is not yet licensed by the state as a kennel operator. Currently in Pennsylvania, to obtain a kennel license, commercial dog breeders must state they are in compliance with local zoning requirements. Under Governor Rendell’s proposed puppy mill bill, H.B. 2525, breeders will be required to comply with local zoning ordinances and permit requirements. Click here for more on that pending legislation.

Zoning as a Means of Controlling Puppy Mills

BulldogBecause of constitutional restrictions, it is not usually possible for a county or city to deny even a conditional use or special exception zoning permit. But in issuing these permits, local governments can place conditions on the operation of these businesses. With these restrictions in a zoning permit, it can be much easier for local citizens to challenge the operation of the mill in court or before the county or city government as nuisances or for violations of the permit. The restrictions can impose requirements for public safety such as fire protection or proper waste disposal and also for humane care and treatment.

Puppy millers claim these restrictions are too expensive. But complying with requirements issued in the interest of public safety and humane care are part of the cost of doing business. If a miller cannot pay these costs, then, well, this business isn’t for him or her. Isn’t that the way the free market works?    

Model Requirements for a Zoning Permit

Here are some requirements that can be included in a zoning permit for a commercial dog breeder or puppy mill:

1. Unannounced inspections of the site for compliance with the conditions of the permit.

2. Limits on the numbers of adult dogs and puppies at any one time. An adult dog is defined as four (4) months of age or older.

3. Restrictions on inbreeding dogs and limits on breeding female dogs by age and number of times per year. 

4. Restrictions on numbers of dogs sold each year and sales of dogs that are younger than 10 weeks of age.  Requirements that any dog under 10 weeks of age shall be housed with its mother and any nursing dog shall be kept with her puppies in housing separate from other dogs.

5. Compliance with all federal and state laws and regulations and local ordinances applicable to companion animal breeders and dealers as defined by such laws; building, zoning, environmental and health & safety codes, and a requirement that any violation of such laws, regulations or ordinances shall constitute a nuisance.

6. Requirements for licensing, vaccinations, and micro-chipping all dogs and spay/neuter for all dogs sold.

7. Provision for the following: (a) Food in sufficient quantity and nutritive quality for the age, size and needs of the dog must be provided once each day and clean potable water must be available at all times (b) Continuous access to an enclosed shelter with a solid roof and which contains clean, dry, adequate bedding to protect the animal from weather emergencies, rain, hail, sleet, snow, temperatures above 85 degrees and below 40 degrees, or from temperatures or a surrounding environment that may cause the animal to suffer, sustain injury or illness or die.

    (c) Access to a place or enclosure that allows the animal adequate room to run around unleashed or untied and get sufficient daily exercise for at least 20 minutes each day.

    (d) A primary place or enclosure, the place where dogs are routinely kept, that is not overcrowded, that has a nonporous, solid surface for flooring that can be sanitized, that is well-ventilated with air circulating at a rate of 8 to 12 times per hour, that has adequate lighting, and is dry, clean and sanitary and free from animal feces and wastes, spoiled or contaminated food, dirty water, parasites or pests, trash, debris, sharp or dangerous objects and offensive odors or other contaminants that could affect the animal’s health or injure the animal. The primary place or enclosure should provide at least 50 square feet per dog.

     (e) Necessary and reasonable veterinary care including vaccinations that are required or recommended by a licensed veterinarian, and care and treatment a reasonably prudent person would find appropriate or necessary for injuries, neglect, illness or disease with records of such care and treatment that are available for inspection at all times.

     (f) Grooming that is necessary and appropriate for the health of the dog, including periodic brushing and trimming of nails.

    (g) A period of socialization and interaction with other animals and people each day for a period no less than 2 hours.

8. A dog may be confined in a smaller enclosure than required in the permit for transport or for short periods not to exceed 8 hours in a 24-hour day. These smaller enclosures must still have sufficient room for the animal to stand, turn around, stretch its limbs easily and lie comfortably. The floor of the place or enclosure shall be constructed to prevent injury to the animals’ feet and legs. Enclosures for dogs may have wire flooring provided that the wire is of adequate gauge to prevent sagging under the animals’ weight and the mesh is small enough to prevent their feet from passing through.

9. Dogs may not be tethered or chained as a means of confinement.

10.  Proper disposition of dog waste 

11. Appropriate environmental assessment

12. Written evacuation plan to safeguard people and animals in case of emergency

13. Requirements for sprinkler systems, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers.

14. Adequate supervision and monitoring of the facility and sufficient staff to care for the dogs humanely.

15. No dogs shall be debarked or shock collars used.

16. Removal and burial of dead dogs from the site must be done as stated according to state and local codes.

17. Maintenance of USDA kennel license at all times.

18. Puppy lemon law requirements for dogs sold in the county or city

19. Non-transferability of the Conditional Use Permit.

20. Requirement that any violation of the terms of this permit shall constitute a nuisance.