by ZACH KAYSER
A proposed dog-breeding operation near Utica could mean Winona County will see an influx of fluffy Yorkshire terriers.
In March, plaintiff Henry Yoder petitioned the Winona County Planning Commission to permit a new dog-breeding facility on his father Elmer’s land, in addition to the existing one on Yoder’s property. In April, the commission recommended approval and the permit application will be presented to the county council on Tuesday.
In 2015, Yoder, along with several other Amish dog breeders, was the subject of a social media and email protest campaign by animal rights activists as they sought (and received) permits for their farming operations.
Since then, Yoder has received clean annual inspection reports from the USDA, with the exception of a “teaching moment” in 2016 and a “non-critical” violation in 2017 where no adults were found. present to accompany the USDA staff member on their surprise inspection. . The last inspection dates back to January.
At the proposed new farm, Yoder plans to breed Yorkshire Terriers or “Yorkies” (toy-sized dogs usually weighing between 4 and 10 pounds) and sell them to a single animal broker for resale. To house the dogs, Yoder plans to convert an existing 58ft by 40ft pole barn on his father’s land, currently used to store machinery and hay, sometime before the end of the year. According to Yoder’s claim, the only employees on his cattle farm are himself and his family, two adults and nine children.
Although the Planning Commission said the ranch was fine on its own, it said in the findings of fact that the Yoders had not demonstrated that there was a need or demand for the project in the Winona County. Some of the conditions the commission imposed on the permit include having no more than 50 adult dogs on site, allowing random inspections of the property by county workers, maintaining a yard for animal socialization, and have an adequate system for disposing of dog waste.
As Zoning Administrator Eric Johnson noted at the April meeting, Henry Yoder already has a license for another dog farm on County Road 33, about a mile from the one for which he is currently seeking a permit.
A neighbor complained about Yoder’s existing facility, regarding noise disturbance from barking as well as animal welfare, Johnson said. Johnson obtained a response from Yoder on the complaint in the form of a verbal conversation with Yoder.
No member of the public spoke for or against the project during the public hearing.
Planning Commission member Patrick Byron referred to the previous controversy and asked if there had been any other issues with the county’s inspections of dog farms or complaints from residents. Johnson said the county conducted regular inspections in the months after 2015, which found everything was generally in order from a Planning Commission clearance perspective. However, Johnson stressed that animal health and welfare is the concern of the USDA and the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. Johnson added that the county has not received “actionable complaints” about the existing dog breeding facility.
Yoder attended the meeting and said he planned to sell the old farmhouse. He did not make detailed remarks, but limited his comments to brief responses to the commissioners’ questions. Several asked about the neighbor’s complaint, and Yoder said he didn’t speak to the neighbor directly.
According to Yoder’s statement on the application, his family wants to continue in dog breeding because of his children.
“[T]they can all help with the work in our kennel,” Yoder said. “Playing with puppies helps keep our dogs [socialized], and people who buy a puppy from us get a happier, healthier puppy; it makes us and our customers happy and love what we do.
The distributor will pick up the puppies from a van when they are about 8 to 10 weeks old, Yoder said.
The farm dogs will produce about 10 gallons of feces a day, which will be collected by the family and then spread as manure by a team of horses pulling a manure spreader, Yoder said.
At their existing dog farm, the family is taking a number of measures for the welfare and safety of the animals, Yoder said, including a battery-powered light cycle to provide lighting, replacing shavings of pine twice a day, access to the exercise yard twice a day. , and constant access to freshwater nipples.