Bylaw subcommittee releases draft of updated kennel requirements

Aug 2, 2018

Any dog owner with four or fewer dogs will not be required to a town inspection of their premises, but any owner with five or more dogs will be required to be inspected under a final draft of updated bylaws pertaining to dogs and dog kennels that will be forwarded to the town planning board.

Planning Board Bylaw Subcommittee met Thursday afternoon, Aug. 2, to button down, among other things, a final draft for updated town animal control bylaws. The board voted to use the model of the state's existing animal control laws and tailor it to the town's structure.

With Marion Animal Control Officer Susan Connor and Marion Police Chief John Garcia, in attendance, the six-person bylaw subcommittee went through a six-page document that addressed everything from description of kennel types to enforcement, fees, licensing, and penalties

Most of the discussion at the Aug. 2, meeting centered around definitions of household, hobby and commercial kennels, setting numbers for each, and a bylaw requiring household kennels to go before the town zoning board for kennel licenses.

"This draft takes into account all of the comments from the last meeting, which were to study the special permit requirements and also other little changes," Town Planner Gil Hilario said to the group attending the Aug. 2, meeting. The committee last met on July 12.

Hilario said most of the changes from previous versions are with regard to inspections of animals in various classified kennels.

The updated animal control bylaws say any owner of a household, hobby or commercial kennel must obtain a kennel license, provided that the Town Clerk issues a license. The dog owner must provide the Town Clerk with a written determination from the town building inspector that its issuance would not violate any zoning bylaw, rule or regulation.

Kennel owners must also provide written determination from the animal control officer that the maintenance of a dog kennel will not result in a health hazard.

Hilario reminded committee members that the discussion at the July 12, meeting focused on whether or not only hobby kennels and commercial kennels should require an inspection, or whether all kennels, including household kennels, should require an inspection. The town planner said after conferring with the town animal control officer, who performs kennel inspections as part of her duties, and other parties, the requirement on household kennel inspections should be lowered.  His explanation clarified what the recent draft bylaw change would do.

"What would happen is if you're a resident in Marion, you would file a kennel application and if it's a household kennel you wouldn't go before the zoning board," Hilario said. "We modified the bylaw so you wouldn't have to go before the zoning board for a regular household kennel.

"But, if its a hobby kennel or a commercial dog kennel it would require an appeal before the zoning board procedurally"as a use issue, Hilario said. "And, now as part of the application, it's only going to require the building inspector and the animal control officer's signatures to put the application in. But in order to sign off on that an inspection needs to be made."

Under the draft, a hobby kennel is a single premises with a collection of five to ten dogs that are housed, groomed, bred, boarded, trained and sold or where there are fewer than four litters per year are raised. A household kennel is a single premises with a collection of four or less, three months or older that are maintained as household pets on a lot, not maintained for breeding purposes.

"The question we had is on the application, should an inspection be made for all kennels or just a hobby or commercial kennel? It really varies by town," Hilario said, answering his only question. "I've seen both."

Marilyn Whalley, a former town planner, who sits on the bylaw committee as a citizen member touched on how the committee arrived at the decision.

"When we looked at this we were looking at the number of dogs. A household kennel could be up to five dogs, and hobby kennel, six to ten dogs, and a commercial kennel can be over ten dogs," Whalley said.

"The feeling was not to require inspection in a household kennel because it seemed like the number of dogs would be small enough to live within the house, so it felt like the only inspections needed would be needed for a hobby kennel, which is six to ten dogs, or a commercial kennel."

The committee then turned to the town animal control officer for input.

"We want to know how you feel. Do you feel all kennels should be included?," Marion Building Inspector Scott Shippey asked Marion Animal Control Officer Susan Connor, who has been the town's animal control officer for more than 20 years.

"That is the state mandate , that if you have five or more dogs, you must have a kennel, which is what we're suggesting," she responded. "Any other kennel that we have ever had. in the Town of Marion is inspected twice a year by me."

"My question to the board is what is it you like about what you have here," Connor  said referring to the kennel bylaws draft. "Because  seems to be pretty well spelled out by what is mandated by the state."

Connor cautioned against make the by laws more restrictive.

"The purpose of the new state laws is to help to control and safeguard the public and the animals from over breeding, failure to inoculate, failure to restraint," Connor said. "Doing this sort of thing, where its so regulated, it's only going to drive people underground," she said.

There will a public meeting held by the Town Planning Board at a date to be announced before the end of August, which is the deadline for warrants to be submitted in time for the Oct. 22, fall town meeting.