by Chris Rogers
Winona County Council is considering stricter regulations for commercial dog-breeding kennels, possibly including a temporary moratorium on any new kennels. At the same time, council members seemed to agree on a solution to one of their main concerns: verifying that dog breeders receive the required state and federal licenses.
The Minnesota Board of Animal Health (BAH) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) are responsible for regulating commercial pet breeders. Breeders above a certain size must be licensed and regularly inspected and are subject to many rules about the care, treatment and housing of dogs. County staff insisted that the county should leave animal welfare regulations to the state. Verifying that dogs are spending enough time outdoors, for example, requires in-person inspections, which BAH and USDA already do and the county simply doesn’t have the staff to deal with, county officials
However, citizens protesting a series of commercial dog breeding licenses approved in 2016 and 2017, calling Winona County ‘the puppy mill capital of Minnesota’, raised concerns about rule violations. state and federal and lobbied the board to ban kennels or enact stricter local animal welfare regulations. Years have passed without any new breeding, but a recent request for a permit has revived the debate.
In August, the county council voted 3-2 to deny a license for a kennel for up to 20 dogs outside Lewiston. County Council members Chris Meyer, Greg Olson and Marie Kovecsi questioned whether an existing kennel on the same property needed a state license; the owners said it was under state clearance. Either way, the episode prompted some county board members to urge the county to verify that BAH and USDA licensing requirements are being met and raise the prospect of a moratorium and new regulations. local on the kennels.
“Even though [complying with state and federal law] is a condition, we never check the conditions,” Olson said at the time. “I think what we saw today showed a lot of flaws in the CUP process for dog breeding,” he continued. “Maybe while we have the discussion, we could have a moratorium, just to sort it out.”
The county council resumed discussion on Sept. 14, when Kovecsi pleaded for the county to get involved in regulating animal welfare in kennels, not just land use and zoning issues. . “I think it’s in our business to be concerned about their welfare, while they’re being raised, before they’re sold, because they’re sold as pets, and we expect them to be pets, with a pet temperament, a pet socialization,” she said. “If they’re not bred to have those qualities, it depends on us, in addition to our land use,” Kovecsi continued. She and Olson said they would support a moratorium on new kennels while new rules are developed.
“To get into the finer points of animal health and welfare…I would respectfully ask that we don’t because it’s already been done,” replied Kay Qualley, director of planning and environmental services for the Winona County, referring to BAH and USDA.
County board member Marcia Ward agreed, saying “micromanaging” kennels, on top of state regulations, isn’t worth spending the county’s limited resources. “You can probably take any block in the town of Winona, and there will be more [pets] per block that some of these dog breeders raise,” she explained.
Olson argued for a more modest approach: check that BAH and USDA licenses are received. The county already requires kennels to comply with federal and state law, but it does nothing to verify whether they obtain BAH and USDA licenses. “I think if we issue a permit, we have a responsibility to verify that those conditions have been met,” Olson said.
Qualley noted that such verification should occur after a permit is issued, as county permits are required to build a kennel, while breeders must have their kennels built and inspected before they can receive a state license. . However, the county could require kennel operators to send the county a copy of state and federal licenses when they receive them, she said. The whole county council seemed to support the idea.
Although they reached an agreement on this point, the county council plans to discuss the kennels again in October, and Olson said a moratorium is still possible. Olson and Meyer asked county staff to present information on how other counties regulate kennels and whether Winona County is more lax than its neighbors.
Wabasha, Olmsted, Houston, and Fillmore counties do not have specific rules regarding kennels in their zoning ordinances, and in Fillmore County kennels do not require any special permits.