The township continues to look for a solution to a resident holding 73 dogs on her property.
At this week’s township committee meeting concerns were raised once again regarding a local woman, Donna Roberts, holding 73 dogs on her property.
The committee has been searching for a way to solve this issue for the past six months; however, township solicitor Douglas Heinold stated it is difficult to come to a solution that will please all residents.
The proposed ordinance was dissected, clarifying that it is only in regard to cats and dogs and that the main focus was on larger operations — not on hobby kennelists, which Heinold described as someone hosting a small breeding operation out of their home.
The proposed ordinance states, “The township has recently experienced a number of complaints with regards to animals and has determined that the existing provisions need to be expanded and updated in order to ensure safe and habitable conditions [for] animals and that the safety, health and welfare are ensured for all residents.”
If passed, any breeder, kennel, pet shop, pound or shelter operating a commercial dog-breeding facility must acquire a valid license after partaking in annual inspections.
After concerns were raised at last month’s meeting regarding the language of the ordinance, Heinold discussed the intentions of the ordinance.
“If you read a certain section of the ordinance, it reads as if today you can go out and establish a kennel, and if this ordinance is passed, tomorrow you can’t establish a kennel,” Heinold said. “That’s not what was intended by that language and we’re going to try and clarify that.”
Heinold said that as of right now the current zoning ordinance does not recognize the different uses of breeders, kennels and other similar operations. The zoning ordinance states that if something is not listed as a permitted use, it is considered a prohibited use. Therefore, if this ordinance were passed, the intent is that residents would be required to get a variance before opening a kennel in a commercial area.
Additionally, as the ordinance currently reads, a kennel license would be required for a facility with five or more breeding female dogs, although the definition of a “breeding female dog” remains unclear.
Ultimately, the public expressed their opinions of having the ordinance be further clarified to ensure hobby kennelists may continue and that new breeders be permitted in Shamong.
Roberts spoke at the meeting, confirming that she does have 73 dogs on her property, and denied the request of Mayor Michael DiCroce to come to an agreement on having a certain number of dogs off her property by a certain date.
The committee examined its options during executive session. The committee decided to table the ordinance to give it an opportunity to clarify the language and to implement solutions to the concerns raised by the public as a means to further ensure that hobby kennelists are not negatively affected.
Next month’s meeting will be a first reading on amendments regarding this issue, and, if necessary, special meetings will be held before the November meeting to come to a conclusion at a quicker rate.
“We are going to solve the problem. We don’t want to hurt other people in our community, so that’s why we’re taking a deep breath, we invite everyone to give specific comments as to how this can be better,” Di Croce said. “But in the end, we’re going to pass legislation that is going to restrict the ability for someone to run an operation like this.”
The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at the municipal building located at 105 Willow Grove Road in Shamong.