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Outfitting, kennel applications and Chaffee County Dog Resolution changes

I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the actions of this County regarding the Alison Brown and her foxhound situation. From my viewpoint, what I see is a county that has changed codes and definitions in a hasty and haphazard fashion to put unreasonable demands on Dr. Brown to try to halt her ability to keep her foxhounds and pursue her hobby. The County is demanding she apply for an outfitting license( when she is not an outfitter), put in, and augment, a commercial well for her boarding horses (when no other boarding facilities need one), limit who may or may not come onto her property, and requesting she comply with commercial road access when she does not have a commercial business.

Before this, County staff recommended, and then the Commissioners passed, a definition change in the County code to make anyone who has more than seven dogs apply for a kennel license solely as a way to target Dr. Brown. There was no other supporting testimony, documented need, or overwhelming public support for making that change. Nay, the public was overwhelmingly against it, but it was passed anyway. Why? Simply, to try to solve a well-documented neighbor dispute  This dispute has now been through the court system which has ruled in Ms Brown’s favor in all counts and awarding her over $500,000 in damages. But, in the County’s relentless and continuing pursuit of Dr. Brown, the rest of us are left with a code change that impacts 18,000 other Chaffee County residents; a hasty code change enacted with little thought as to the impact on other Chaffee County residents and their lives and interests.

Chaffee County’s code change to the definition of “Kennel” now impacts every dog owner who has more than seven dogs; to have more than seven one has to apply for a kennel permit. One might think, well who wants more than seven dogs? Granted, not many do, but there are pet owners, fosterers, hobbyist, ranchers, hunters, and sports enthusiast who may. Fosterers often keep multiple dogs in addition to their own to rehabilitate and hold until proper homes can be found which can be months or sometimes years.

The new code also limits any mobile home park, apartment complex, or camp site to no more than seven dogs if they stay for more than two weeks. Sports or conformation enthusiast often have dogs they are raising up for sport or competition that they need to hold on to for a while to see if they have the aptitude for the discipline, as well as current competition dogs and retired dogs living out their final years. Some people may have a pack of feisty pocket dogs or a pack that they use for ranching, hunting, livestock guardians, or they just enjoy having a number of dogs. Why they have them doesn’t matter as long as they are kept in a manner that does not create a public nuisance.

Forcing these dog owners to apply for a kennel permit to keep these dogs or be in violation of the law also impacts Chaffee county. There are potential budget impacts due to increased kennel applications, inspections, enforcement and the time and effort to staff. In Dr. Brown’s case, she already has a kennel permit through the State of Colorado. She is inspected and keeps her hounds in breed appropriate housing that is in compliance with PAFCA standards. Why is another level of rules, regulations needed for her or other citizens who are not engaging in a commercial enterprise?

With this revised definition and kennel permit requirement process, Ms Brown, is being forced to apply for a kennel permit as well as an outfitting permit, even though she is not an outfitter, so she may live, train and enjoy her hobby with her hounds.  It matters not to County staff that she already licensed and inspected. Through Chaffee county permitting process, staff is making recommendations as to what Dr. Brown may or may not do with her hounds requiring her to keep her hounds inside and wanting her to stipulate a schedule “for outdoor exercise, training and play time for the dogs” as well as the Chaffee County stipulating no one involved in or associated with her sport may come onto her property.

If Chaffee County staff is going to be making recommendations on how to keep and kennel dogs what is their expertise in this area? Does county staff have dog training, behavior, and husbandry knowledge? Does staff know what kenneling and training requirements are needed for each breed, sport and discipline a dog may be being used for? What may be acceptable for short term stays in a commercial dog boarding, or training facility will likely not be acceptable for the long term for someone’s personal pets, working, competition or hobby animals.

A dog, is not a dog, is not a dog. Not every fluffy Fido is content to lay on the couch awaiting its master’s return. Each breed has specific requirements to be happy and healthy. Improper kenneling for the needs of each breed can be considered abuse. Dogs that are denied the ability to engage in the behaviors that they were selectively bred for will develop neurotic behaviors becoming a nuisance: barking, self-mutilation, spinning, pacing, panting, anxiety, aggression and so on. Are Chaffee County staff experts in the varying needs of the hundreds of breeds of dogs and their kenneling and training needs?

Does staff know the needs of English bulldogs as opposed to the needs of a sighthound or a terrier? Does county staff know, and can they make educated recommendations for a breed of dog that is genetically disposed to live in social groups and running and living as a pack, or a breed of dog that needs large areas to roam and run, needing more than scheduled “exercise” times? Is Chaffee County staff, who is making recommendations that may become requirements, going to be responsible for the neuroses or health issues a dog may develop due to their improper kenneling or limiting of activity or mental stimulation? Chaffee County is creating a far larger problem than the one that exists on Antelope Rd.

What about other dog owners who will now be impacted by the code change and new requirements: the ranchers, the hunters, the hobbyist and dog sport enthusiast? Many of these people have more than seven dogs for working, competing hunting, fostering and protecting stock. Regulations for these owners should be no different than those for Dr. Brown. These owners will now need the required kennel permit, staff will regulate how to keep their dogs. Owners will need to provide operating schedule as well as a working and training schedule for their pets or working dogs. And if Dr. Brown’s hobbyist friends are forbidden to come to her home I suppose, it would also be stipulated that these dog owners cannot have fellow their ranching, hunting, and training friends with similar interest come to their homes. This is absurd. This kennel code change should have never been considered as a solution to the Antelope Rd issue and it surely should never have been passed.

A law, in our free society, should set a minimum standard of acceptable behavior or standards and leave the people free to pursue their interests without government infringement. A change in law should only happen when there is a clearly documented need and careful forethought as to the impacts on the rights of all citizens, not to appease the wishes of the few.  Again, I ask, where is the overwhelming documented need for this kennel definition change? The situation with Dr. Brown and the changing of codes to try to control one person appears to be a clear case of government overreach to satisfy a disgruntled neighbor. A neighbor who disapproved of Dr. Brown’s dogs and demonized the hobby she engages in with her hounds. A legal activity that the court ruled was an agricultural operation under Colorado State law. This code change was strongly opposed by those at the public hearing where it was reviewed.

The purpose of our government is to enact laws and codes in support of the will of the people. Our boards and commissions should only be enacting new definitions and resolutions that the majority of the public are for, that is the whole purpose of a public hearing – to find the will of the people. Local government should not be enacting new codes counter to the majority’s wishes.

I do believe that Chaffee County animal codes need review and updating. As our population increases and more urban dwellers move into our agricultural areas with differing ideas as to what a rural life is, more problems, such as the Antelope Rd issue, will arise. If the County will act with careful forethought and engage the right people to look at this issue, a lot of future problems can be avoided. We need a volunteer task force, made up of professionals, citizens and staff be tasked to review the Chaffee county animal ordinances and recommend changes, if needed.

I served on such a task force for three years for Los Alamos County in New Mexico. I would be happy to help if one were set up here. I am a dog trainer with 30+ years of experience.  I have studied dogs and their behavior, I have trained, competed, shown, coached, taught, boarded, fostered, bred, evaluated, and competed in several dog sports. I have studied codes and complaints of countless communities to see what works as well as studying countless court cases to see the outcome of situations. After the three years and numerous public meetings, code revisions were written that were not overbearing, yet enforceable. By engaging the citizens on the level that we did and addressing that citizen input, everyone felt they had their say in the final product. This is how code changes should be enacted. Changes that reflect the will of the people who must live by them. The new Animal control ordinance we developed got the attention of the American Kennel Club and was lauded by the AKC in their Jul/Aug 2006 issue of, Taking Command as an example of reasonable animal control ordinances.

Planning and Zoning Commissioners, I ask you to grant Dr. Brown her outfitting and kennel applications with no constraints until the code in total can be looked at and revised in a meaningful way as well as placing a moratorium on requiring any future kennel applications from non-commercial applicants and just let Chaffee County citizen’s live in peace and take care their animals as long as they can do so without becoming a nuisance as defined by our current laws.

Chaffee County residents, I ask you to write your County Commissioners in support of developing and Animal Control Task Force to look at the current animal control resolutions and codes to see how they can be improved. I will be happy to serve as a volunteer on this task force and encourage others who would like to work with me on the to contact me.

Marsha Boggs

Salida, CO