Rockingham County Supervisors get overview of proposed commercial dog kennel ordinance

Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 6:39 PM EDT
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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - The Rockingham County Board of Supervisors held a work session on Tuesday to hear from county staff about a proposed commercial dog kennel ordinance.

The county’s planning commission made no recommendation on the proposal. If approved it would provide more specific guidelines and regulations for dog breeding operations in the county.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We know that there are some communities in other states that are known for their puppy mills and that’s what we’d really like to avoid for Rockingham County,” said Melinda See, founder of Advocates for Valley Animals.

Advocates for Valley Animals has been advocating for the ordinance and is hopeful supervisors will adopt it. The proposal is far more comprehensive and restrictive than the county’s existing dog kennel ordinance.

“We’ve had a couple of instances in the last several months and years where we’ve had individuals who are currently breeding dogs and they either want to continue that or change that. We’ve had instances where folks are breeding dogs and we’ve had complaints,” said Sallie Wolfe-Garrison, Chair of the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors.

The proposed ordinance, section 17-607 of the county code of ordinances, includes requirements for the location and size of breeding kennels, the number of dogs they can have and breed, the conditions within kennels, and the amount of exercise, training, and socialization each dog must receive.

“We have a hope that a kennel can be a humane place where socialization of the animals is provided as well as the veterinary care that they need,” said Melinda See.

Another issue that would be addressed is the number of times that breeders are allowed to breed female dogs.

“A concern of ours is for the female dogs to not be overbreed meaning more than two times a year. That would be something else that we really think would be important for the health of the mother dog as well as any puppies,” said See.

Overbreeding is one of the big problems with puppy mills and is of great concern to animal rights advocates.

“Puppy mills and very large commercial breeding operations really treat mother dogs like breeding machines and essentially their puppies are products. Stronger commercial breeding standards really help close that divide,” said Molly Armus, Virginia Director of the Humane Society of the United States.

Armus said that puppy mills are a problem all over the U.S. and in Virginia. In addition to being cruel to animals, she said that these types of operations also end up costing taxpayers.

“Situations arise where commercial breeding facilities flood a state that is already overwhelmed and essentially they’re dumped at taxpayer-funded animal shelters who bear the burden,” said Armus.

Both Armus and See said that dogs born in puppy mills often have health problems and sometimes end up having to be put down after they are purchased.

“Puppy mill dogs that I have met have had very little veterinary care. There’s often just a whole host of medical problems,” said See.

The Humane Society of the United States provided input on the proposed ordinance when it was first drafted by county staff and said that it’s important for local governments to take this kind of action.

“We have a state law around commercial breeders and I think there’s a misconception that that sort of ended any problems, that there are no issues but unfortunately commercial breeding cruelty absolutely still persists, so we really do try to encourage localities to enact laws that are stricter than the state’s,” said Armus.

Board of Supervisors Chair Sallie Wolfe-Garrison said that a big part of the process when it comes to the proposal will be determining what level of dog breeding constitutes a commercial operation.

“We have instances all over the county that happen where individual families or individual people have dogs and all of a sudden they end up having puppies available that they end up selling. Does that constitute a commercial business or is it just the happenstance of dogs being in the same place at the same time?” she said.

The Board of Supervisors will not be taking action on the ordinance at its regular meeting on Wednesday. Wolfe-Garrison said she anticipates the board won’t vote on the ordinance until at least October.