Being Dogs' Best Friend

by Michelle Gladden, Freehold Bureau
Asbury Park Press, Jan 5, 2010, Local News

NEW YEAR, NEW PROTECTION: Howell council adopts ordinance to regulate commercial breeders, kennels, shelters, pounds, training facilities, pet shops

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Hercules (left) and Christy have enjoyed many safe and clean holiday seasons at Highland Kennel on Maxim Southard Road. Unfortunately, not all dog-related businesses have such a good reputation, prompting a new ordinance that will regulate all those types of facilities.

HOWELL — The new year begins with new regulations to protect such dogs as Hercules and Christy.

While the two have enjoyed many safe and clean holiday seasons at Highland Kennels on Mexim Southard Road, reports of overcorwding and unsanitary conditions at other kennels as well as zoning issues surrounding dog-related businesses and private pet owners sparked concern within the community and with the governing body.

Those concerns were met with a proposed February ordinance last year that limited the number of animals dog owners could have, but it subsequently was met with voal opposition.

Among those opposed was DeSai Court resident Rose Mary Laubach, who emphaticaly said the proposal was not fair. Laubach not only suggested a committee, but volunteered to become one of its members.

The governing body voted down the ordinance and agreed to allow the formation of a committee comprised of a group of residents, animal advocates, nationally award-winning handlers, rare-dog breeders and animal cruelty prosecutors.

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Sansy Pansini of Brick drops off her dog Kacie at Highland Kennel in Howell.

"When we started off, it was a negative situation," said Rose De Mario-Bednarz of Berkeley, the education chairwoman for the New Jersey Federation of Dogs. "My goal was to have it tabled. We saw there were people with passion, hundreds in the room with pet issues. Most of the people that move to Howell and Jackson alike do that so they can have their farms and animals."

On average, 50 people, headed by Township Attorney McKenna Kingdon, worked to address how to regulate the variety of dog-related business and the private pet owner concerns.

Now close to 10 months later, the revised law is in place with support from the group and business owners such as Highland Kennels owner Andre de Garmeaux, who initially wrote a letter of concern to the governing body over their February proposal.

"In the end, this results in a good thing," de Garmeaux said. "Although they came at it from 180 degrees from what they initially announced, the new licensing guidelines will help protect the animals."

The guidelines also end years of taking an ad hoc approach to dog-related businesses and uses in town.

The ordinance, unanimously adopted by the Township Council last month, regulates commercial breeders, dog kennels, shelers, pounds, training facilities and pet shops.

The ordinance revises definitions and licensing requirements for dog training fcilities and comercial breeders. Now dog-related businesses are considered conditional uses within four of the township's busiiness zones, but existing licenses kennels, dog training facilities and pet shops in other zones will be "grandfathered" as pre-existing conditions, the new ordinance states.

Other stipulations include a 150-foot, rear-yard buffer zone and an inrease in penalties.

"This issue has been around for some time. It has been in the works since 2006," said Township Attorney McKenna Kingdon. "The new ordinance provides a way of licensing and regulating the commercial aspects of any dog (related) business."

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Suzie Rizzuto (second from left) of Colts Neck drops her dogs off at Highland Kennel in Howell for the New Year's weekend with owner Andre de Garmeaux and kennel manager Amanda DiPianta (left).