A cap on the number of dogs and new standards for facilities are among the provisions of new kennel bylaw approved this week by Wellesley council.
The goal is to improve the welfare of the animals, says Coun. Shelley Wagner, who has spearheaded the longstanding review of the township bylaw.
The rules limit kennel operations to no more than 35 dogs, and reduces the limits for new operators. For the latter, a proposed cap of 15 was lowered to 10 during deliberations Tuesday night via an online videoconference.
“I struggle with starting at 15. I would like to see it knocked down to 10,” said Wagner, who’s amendment passed by a 4-1 margin.
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“I don’t think we’re asking for anything outrageous,” she added of provisions in the latest draft of the bylaw.
“I think this is a really good bylaw. I think we’ve moved in the right direction,” she said. “We’ll have one of the best bylaws out there, that other municipalities will adopt,” she said.
This week’s approval follows a protracted review that included public meetings and a range of inputs, with some people arguing the proposals were too stringent and others that they were too lenient. The divide reflected the township’s longstanding struggle to find a balance between farm-based operators and concerns about animal welfare.
Throughout the process, Wagner expressed concerns about the number of kennels already established in the township, including those operated by farmers who see dog kennels as way to supplement their income. Animal welfare groups concerned about mistreatment of the dogs at such operations have long accused Wellesley of harbouring so-called puppy mills.
Wagner said the new bylaw will offer real protections for animals, dismissing social media rhetoric.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, some councillors expressed concerns that grandfathering provisions might be too restrictive. Currently, only one breeding kennel exceeds the new 35-animal limit – and on-farm operation with 63 animals – with Coun. Carl Smit suggesting that the operator be allowed to continue given that there have been no issues to date.
Mayor Joe Nowak, however, said the operator had indicated he has no problem with the permitted five-year transition to 35 dogs.
Likewise, kennel operators will have two years to bring other aspects of their businesses, including building standards, into conformity.
Grandfathered operations that are sold or transferred would have to be brought immediately into conformity by the new owners, who would be required to go through the licensing process.
The new bylaw sets up a range of requirements, from the state of open-air dog runs to a host of building code requirements and sanitary measures.
The amended bylaw ultimately passed with unanimous approval.
“We have our kennel bylaw in place, and hopefully it remains that way for quite a number of years,” said Nowak.