CONEJOS — Conejos County’s moratorium on dog kennels will remain in place for at least six months as the county formulates regulations for that particular land use.
No new applications will be accepted for kennels or expansion of existing kennels and the moratorium can be extended another six months if additional time is needed to investigate and adopt new regulations.
The Conejos Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) June 15 approved two new dog breeding operations, then passed a first reading of a six-month moratorium on all special use permits for kennels. It was passed on second reading Aug. 2.
On June 5, the Planning Commission recommended that the BOCC impose interim zoning moratoria on applications for special use permits for dog kennels to establish proper standards for them.
The County Land Use Code did provide for special use permits for dog kennels but did not provide specific regulation of the construction or operation of kennels or other dog breeding or boarding facilities within the county.
When the resolution came up for second reading, Ramona Sisneros, a neighbor to the existing kennels expressing concern that, even when more stringent regulations in place, the Land Use staff might not be able to conduct regular inspections. She said the county needed to hire someone to do inspections and resources are needed to determine if the operations were in compliance.
Sisneros presented paperwork pertaining to a contact she had made with the Division of Water Resources regarding water supplies for the breeding animals and their offspring. The DWR will require monthly readings of any cisterns on the properties and will require all receipts from purchased and delivered water be submitted as part of the compliance process.
There will also be standards for animal carcass and waste disposal, including on-site composting.
“Whereas, the BOCC is now aware that thousands of puppy mills exist all over the United States and that regulations specific to dog breeding kennels are necessary to prevent the proliferation of puppy mills, the Board finds it appropriate for the Board and the Planning Commission to review the standards under which large scale and/or commercial kennels or breeding facilities be permitted within the county,” the moratorium reads.The BOCC determined that the moratorium would allow the careful development of regulations pertaining to dog breeding kennels and would allow the issues surrounding dog-breeding kennels to have the benefits of full public debate.
At the same time, the moratorium would protect the county from approving special use permits before formulation of new, possibly more restrictive regulations.
The six-month moratorium also provides for giving notice to county landowners and allow them to participate in the debate as to what the new regulations should contain.
BOCC members inquired as to possible fees for the intensive inspection that would need to take place and Land Use Administrator Linda DeHerrera said impact monies are being considered.
Since applications by Reuben Mast and Lonnie Yoder were already in process, those requests were considered June 15 and approved with conditions. The BOCC approval brought the number of breeding facilities in Conejos County to three, with a special use permit application by Lavern Coblentz having been reviewed and approved Dec. 15, 2017.
None of the breeders was present for the second reading and passage of the resolution.
Yoder has a breeding operation in Rio Grande County, but moved his family — and their dogs — to Conejos County when the application was approved.
Materials supporting the moratorium noted that three dog breeding kennel operations had been processed by the Land Use Office in the past year, placing those operations within a 10-mile radius of La Jara.
A large concern was noise, since dogs bark unpredictably. The BOCC required some sort of sound barrier, though the nearest full-time resident near either place was more than one-quarter of a mile away.
The prospective breeders were asked how many dogs would be involved, Ideally, there would be one male for each five females of the breeds produced. De Herrera said the county would need documentation on the affect repeated breeding would have on the females.
Mast said he plans to breed larger dogs, but ones who are not known for barking a great deal.
Yoder, who told the commissioners dog breeding was his primary source of income, plans to breed smaller animals and would like to have eight total breeding females with a maximum of two males.
There is some flexibility, but there should be no more than three breeds at any one time, he was advised.
Commission Chairman Mitch Jarvies suggested 11 females with three different breeds, maximum.
Another concern was disposal of animal feces and Yoder said he was planning to compost, but could burn the animal waste.
De Herrera said composting was preferable.
Both men agreed to submit reports and Yoder said he would “submit reports, good or bad.”
Yoder said he had no intention of “stacking” the breeding cages as had been seen in examples of puppy mills, with feces and urine from dogs in the upper levels dropping down on those below.
He said he would have individual cages all on one level and a whelping building where females would give birth.
A veterinarian would be required to determine which female breeding dog could continue breeding and which should be retired. The same will be true of males, the BOCC agreed.
All this will be outlined in the new regulations.