ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) – The Rockingham County Board of Supervisors held a work session Tuesday to hear from county staff on an ordinance for a proposed commercial dog shelter.
The county planning commission made no recommendations 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 there are some communities in other states that are known for their puppy mills, and that’s something we really want to avoid for Rockingham County,” said Melinda See, founder of Advocates for Valley Animals.
Valley Animal Defenders is defending the ordinance and hopes supervisors will pass it. The proposal is far more comprehensive and restrictive than the county’s existing dog kennel ordinance.
“We’ve had a few cases over the last few 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 cases of people breeding dogs and we’ve had complaints,” said Sally Wolfe-Garrison, chairwoman of the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors.
The proposed ordinance, section 17-607 of the county code of laws, contains requirements regarding the location and size of kennels, the number of dogs they may own and breed, kennel conditions, and the amount of exercise, training and training. every dog should receive socialization.
“We hope that kennels can be a humane place where animals can socialize and get the veterinary care they need,” Melinda See said.
Another issue to be resolved is how often breeders are allowed to breed female dogs.
“Our concern is that female dogs do not breed more than twice a year. That would be another thing that we think would be really important for the health of the mother dog and the puppies,” See said.
Overbreeding is one of the biggest problems with puppy mills, and one that worries animal rights activists.
“Puppy mills and very large commercial breeding operations really treat mother dogs as breeding machines and their puppies are the product. Stronger commercial breeding standards really help bridge that divide,” said Molly Armus, Virginia Director of the Humane Society of the USA.
Armus said puppy mills are a problem in the United States and in Virginia. In addition to animal cruelty, he said, such operations cost taxpayers dearly.
“Situations arise where commercial breeding facilities flood a state that’s already overwhelmed, and they’re dumped into overburdened taxpayer-funded animal shelters,” Armus said.
Both Armus and See said dogs born in puppy mills often have health problems and sometimes have to be put down after purchase.
“The puppy mill dogs I met had very little veterinary care. There are often multiple medical problems,” See said.
The Humane Society of the United States reported on the proposed ordinance when it was first drafted by county staff, and said it’s important for local governments to take such measures.
“We have a state law dealing with commercial breeders, and I think there’s a misconception that any kind of problem like that is over, there’s no problem, but unfortunately the cruelty of commercial breeders still goes on, so we’re really trying to encourage locals to pass laws. it’s tougher than the state’s,” said Armus.
Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sallie Wolfe-Garrison said a big part of the process when it comes to the proposal will be determining what level of dog breeding constitutes a commercial operation.
“All over our county, there are cases where individual families or individual people have dogs, and suddenly they have puppies that they put up for sale. Is this a commercial thing, or is it a coincidence that the dogs are in the same place at the same time?’ he said.
The Board of Supervisors will not take action on the ordinance at its next meeting on Wednesday. Wolfe-Garrison said she expects the board won’t vote on the decision until at least October.
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