Kennel can rebuild after devastating fire
An Amish family that lost nearly 200 dogs and puppies when a March fire consumed their kennel will be allowed to rebuild but only by meeting requirements intended to prevent another blaze.
Bland County supervisors last week approved a conditional use permit to allow Ivan Schmucker Jr. to rebuild Dogwood Kennels but required a sprinkler system and fire detection equipment in the new building. Mr. Schmucker has said he will use solar power to heat the kennel.
The kennel fire is thought to have been started by a kerosene heater that the family was using to warm a whelping facility for puppies that they breed to sell.
Animal-welfare advocates from across the country have labeled Dogwood Kennels a “puppy mill” and demanded that county officials look closely at a range of issues to ensure the proper care of the animals.
Opponents of mass dog-breeding operations accused the kennel operators of treating companion animals as livestock and using them solely to make a profit for their breeders. The kennel is one of 14 dealers licensed in Virginia to sell to pet stores.
Supporters of the Schmuckers, who are among the 200 Amish people living in Bland and Giles counties, attested to their concern for animals.
Mr. Schmucker had operated his kennel without the county”s required conditional use permit, a detail that came to light when he tried to rebuild. He said he wasn”t aware of the requirement and later applied for the permit.
Other conditions required of the new kennel are a safety evacuation plan, additional space beyond U.S. Department of Agriculture requirements for caged dogs, and access to the kennel for unannounced county inspections.
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