PA Zoning Embraces Animal Rights Agenda

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PA Animal Rights Activists Manipulate
Zoning Ordinances To Stop Kennels

Lebanon County Judge Sets Sobering Precedent

by JOHN YATES
American Sporting Dog Alliance
http://www.americansportingdogalliance.org
asda@csonline.net

NEWMANSTOWN, PA – Animal rights groups in Pennsylvania have taken their extremist agenda to the local level by infiltrating zoning boards and by bringing in outsiders to lobby for unrealistic and unworkable zoning requirements that can result in a de facto ban on kennels in agricultural areas, an American Sporting Dog Alliance investigation shows.

Lebanon County rural landowner Scott Good learned this lesson the hard way.

Good, who lives on the land he grew up on in an agriculturally zoned area, applied for a zoning permit to build a small kennel to raise English bulldogs. He now owns three dogs of this breed as pets, but wants to expand and make it a small part-time business venture that would house about 30 dogs. He plans to sell puppies only on a retail level, directly to customers who come to his kennel, and does not want to sell to dealers or pet stores.

Kennels are permitted in agriculturally zoned areas of the county by special exception. Good proposed building an ultra-modern kennel structure that significantly exceeds all state requirements, and his kennel would have offered both heated and air-conditioned comfort for the dogs. His kennel would have been hidden from all neighbors by hills and trees, and would have been a minimum of 400 feet from the nearest property line.

Moreover, Good had contacted all of his neighbors and received their support. Good also has a completely clean record of compliance with local laws, and all laws relating to animals.

What he didn’t count on was animal rights activists reading the legal notice for the hearing and packing the room with 12-to-15 outsiders who voiced theoretical and fabricated concerns to the Heidelberg Township Zoning Hearing Board. Good said none of these activists know him or live nearby.

Good also didn’t count on his local rural zoning board proving itself to be, in effect, an animal rights group.

The zoning board had no choice but to approve the special exception, as Good exceeded all legal requirements by a wide margin. However, an 11-page finding signed by Board Chairman Henry Noll set a series of conditions that made it impossible for Good to continue with his planned project.

The decision clearly granted dogs the same legal protections as people under the zoning code, and specifically alleged that zoning laws are meant to protect the health and welfare of dogs.

Under state law, zoning laws are meant to protect the health and welfare of people. Dogs are not mentioned in the law.

Using “dogs are little people” logic to justify their actions, the zoning board imposed 28 conditions on Good’s permit that totally destroyed the feasibility of the project. They include stipulations that:

· Breeding is permitted only by artificial insemination. Natural breeding is prohibited.

· Temperatures in the kennel must be maintained at between 68-degrees and 75-degrees at all times. The homes of people with children do not have to meet these kinds of exact temperature requirements. Good planned to raise all puppies in his home, and move them to the kennel only when they are old enough.

· Zoning officers will conduct unannounced inspections of the kennel at least twice a year. This is in addition to state kennel license inspections, which also are twice a year.

· Dogs cannot be exercised or allowed to use their outdoor runs between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. Good had planned a facility that included indoor enclosures that met the minimum state requirements, with attached outdoor runs that tripled state requirements. In addition, he had planned to have two attached 20-foot by 30-foot exercise areas.

· The ruling cut the allowable number of dogs in half, to 16, and the size of the exercise areas would be reduced by a third.

· Only one dog would be permitted to live in each enclosure. Good said he believes it is essential to provide dogs with companionship, as they are social animals and he considers isolation cruel.

· All water from the kennel must be piped into holding tanks, which must be pumped periodically and hauled away. Good had planned to allow this water to flow onto his farmland, which is both standard agricultural practice and is specifically approved on his farm’s nutrient management plan.

· Any dogs that die cannot be buried on the farm, including beloved pets. Instead, they have to be hauled away as refuse by a pre-approved carcass removal company, with written notice to the township.

· All dog stools must be hauled off of the property as garbage, and written proof must be submitted to the township. Good had planned to spread the manure on his property, which also is a standard agricultural practice and is approved in his farm’s nutrient management plan.

· And other care requirements were mandated, such as hand feeding only, daily exercise for the dogs and sanitation rules. These kinds of requirements normally are considered to be the role of state regulations, and Good planned to apply for a state kennel license.

“What they are telling you is that if you are breeding a dog, nothing you do is good enough,” Good said.

Good appealed the decision to Lebanon County Court and lost. Judge Samuel Kline ruled in favor of the zoning board in late March (Judge Kline did throw out two of the 28 stipulations, but allowed all of the animal rights stipulations to remain in effect. The ruling allowed the kennel permit to be transferred to a new owner if the land is sold, and allowed Good to spread manure.)

Judge Kline’s ruling is bad news for dog owners all across Pennsylvania. It sets a legal precedent that can and will be used in all of Pennsylvania’s counties, towns, cities and townships. Kline essentially ruled that a zoning board has the power to regulate animal rights issues.

Good has appealed Judge Kline’s ruling to the state Superior Court, and the American Sporting Dog Alliance urges Pennsylvania dog owners to assist Good with this appeal. We hope that dog owners will lend Good their full support and assist him with the costs of an expensive appeal. We also hope several attorneys will volunteer their services to Good’s legal defense efforts.

Good can be reached at smgood@paonline.com.

What happened to Good is not an isolated incident. We have had dozens of confirmed and unconfirmed reports of similar zoning actions in Pennsylvania over the past two years, especially in the southeastern and south central parts of the state.

Good’s situation has far-ranging importance for all dog and kennel owners in Pennsylvania.

This year, the state Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement began to require kennel license holders to affirm that they are in compliance with all local ordinances and zoning codes. There have been reports that the Bureau plans to contact local zoning boards to see if licensed kennels are in compliance.

Moreover, recent draft regulatory and legislative proposals have required kennel owners to comply with local zoning rules, and the current proposed state kennel legislation gives the Bureau almost unlimited power to create new regulations with minimal public notification and participation.

We urge Pennsylvania dog owners to contact their legislators and ask them to oppose this highly flawed legislation in general, and to specifically oppose the provision for new regulations. We also urge special vigilance to make sure that no zoning requirements are included in kennel legislation or amended onto it. The draft legislation, H.B. 2525, which is sponsored by Rep. James Casorio (D-Westmoreland County) and supported by Gov. Ed Rendell, is now before the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

The Heidelberg Township Zoning Hearing Board clearly overstepped its bounds and legal mandate on the Good situation, and we also urge our readers to contact the township supervisors to voice disapproval of this action and of the influence of radical animal rights activists on township zoning issues. The township’s email is HTAC@comcast.net.

In it’s brief to Judge Kline, the township defined it’s belief that animal welfare issues are “a valid zoning purpose to protect the health, safety and welfare…of the community.”

None of the stipulations protect the people of the township from anything. Almost all of them regulate only the dogs and the way they are raised.

The ban on natural breeding is an example of this kind of twisted logic. A rare sexually transmitted disease in dogs is brucellosis. It can result in sterility and miscarriages in female animals.

This issue was raised by animal rights activists at the hearing, and then was used by the zoning board to ban natural breeding.

However, normal veterinary practice in preventing the spread of this rare disease in dogs is quite different. Instead, a simple blood test can tell if a dog is a carrier of this disease. Many dog owners routinely test all of their breeding animals, and the issue has no impact on public health for humans.

Good wants the option to either breed naturally or artificially, as sometimes bulldogs are difficult to breed naturally because of their anatomy. However, he emphasizes that no public or veterinary health risks are involved, and this has nothing to do with zoning issues.

Animal rights activists frequently use “scare tactics” such as the brucellosis issue to hide their real agenda, which is to eliminate the private breeding of dogs, and ultimately the private ownership of dogs.

The American Sporting Dog Alliance is the unified voice of sporting dog owners and professionals in America. We work at the grassroots level to defeat unfair legislation and policies that are harmful to dogs and the people who own and work with them. Our work to protect your rights is supported solely by the donations of our members. Your participation and donations are vital to our success. Please visit us on the web at http://www.americansportingdogalliance.org. Our email is asda@csonline.net.

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