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With Tougher Rules, Many Kennels Close. Over 300 Licensed Kennels Across Pa. Shut Down, while others seek local zoning approvals for the First Time.
Five months after Gov. Ed Rendell approved tighter regulations on dog kennels, scores in Lancaster County and across the state are going out of business.
Others, meanwhile, are seeking local zoning approvals for the first time as a result of the new law.
Chris Ryder, a state Department of Agriculture spokesman, said more than 300 licensed Pennsylvania kennels have indicated to the state that they will close this year.
That's 11 percent of the 2,674 licensed dog kennels in Pennsylvania in 2008.
One of every six licensed dog kennels in Lancaster County — 17 percent — has said it will close this year, Ryder said. That would drop the number of kennels here from 299 to 248.
In all of 2008, kennel closings in Pennsylvania totaled 256.
"We anticipate the number (closing) will go up throughout the year," Ryder said of 2009. "Some have indicated that they don't wish to upgrade their kennels."
Others are dropping licenses because they don't need one, he said, mentioning kennels with less than 26 dogs as an example.
Ken Brandt, executive director of the Pennsylvania Professional Dog Breeders Association, said it's too early to tell how many kennels will close because of the new rules. The rules went into effect in December for non-commercial kennels, but won't start for commercial kennels until October. Commercial kennels are those that sell more than 60 dogs a year or sell dogs to pet stores.
Brandt believes most kennels that do close will be smaller ones, with 50 or 60 dogs, which may not be able to afford to expand.
"I'm concerned about the Lancaster County farmer, that this has become a sideline to them. They take care of puppies very well and this income is probably what keeps them on the farm," Brandt said today. "If you have to double the space for your dogs, you either have to double the area or reduce the number of dogs."
Brandt doesn't expect many large kennel operators to close.
In October, Rendell signed a bill intended to improve the care and treatment of dogs kept in Pennsylvania's larger commercial kennels.
The new law imposes new regulations to increase the size of cages, require annual veterinary checkups and crack down on what critics describe as inhumane puppy mills.
But Brandt said the regulations may not ultimately help improve the care of dogs.
"This does not remove the need for puppies," he said. "They're going to be coming from somewhere, either other states or out of the country where there are not near the health concerns we had in Pennsylvania."
Rendell's bill also stipulates that kennel owners prove they have local zoning approval before a state license is renewed.
Many kennels in Lancaster County have operated with state licenses for years, but never received approval from their local municipality.
Salisbury Township has heard appeals for seven kennels so far this year, and granted approval to five of them.
East Earl Township's zoning hearing board will consider approving three existing kennels March 16.
West Cocalico Township's zoning hearing board will consider approving two existing kennels March 19.
Earl Township's zoning hearing board Monday night will consider allowing Paul M. and Susan H. Hoover to continue to operate their Butter Fly Kennel on their 30-acre farm at 246 Kurtz Road.
It has had a state license, but no local zoning approval, for six years. Earl zoners approved a similar request from another kennel owner last month.
"It seems to be the reasoning we are hearing, that they were not aware of other requirements," said Barry Wagner, a zoning officer for several area townships, including Earl.
The Hoovers want to use a 16-by-40-foot portion of an existing shop building to operate a dog-breeding facility with a maximum of 35 dogs, according to their application.
There is some pressure on local zoning hearing boards to approve the kennels, Brandt said, because if dog breeders feel they have been wronged, "they are very apt to go through the court system."
One of Lancaster County's state dog wardens, Travis Hess, said he expects more existing kennels here to seek local zoning approval in coming months.
He said Lancaster County, which far outpaces all other counties in the state in the number of kennels, has 209 dog breeding kennels, 27 boarding kennels and 12 nonprofit kennels.
Written by RYAN ROBINSON, Staff Writer
Posted by Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life