Friday, January 4, 2013

The Family Puppy's Breeder in the Hot Seat

The Family Puppy had to drop another top supplier due to our campaign efforts. So much for having standards in place that the store can't enforce. If you haven’t been reading our Facebook postings, you missed all the media stories yesterday on our Noble County campaign targeting The Family Puppy’s big puppy farmer – Marlin Bontrager. Meeting photos on our meetup.

The Zoning Board of Appeals meeting lasted four hours and drew in 115 people, three tv stations and a couple local Noble County newspapers.

Six kennels were in the hot seat for not having their kennel permits, but the spotlight was on Mr. Bontrager. The news reporters turned on their camera’s for this young Amish man’s plea for 200 adult dogs. Not one board member seemed to be alarmed at the number of dogs he was requesting and no one asked about animal welfare conditions. However, the Zoning Administrator made sure the board knew that the kennel was “clean” for his announced visit.

Bontrager not only faced a row of cameras, but a photo display next to the board of his neglected dogs standing on wire floors over their own feces and urine with painful eye conditions. I brought enlargements for the room to see. 

Unfortunately the BZA board would only limit speakers in opposition to those that lived within ½ mile from the kennel. This is not normal protocol in other Indiana counties. Luckily, on Saturday before the meeting, I visited 15 of Bontrager’s neighbors. Many were Amish, some sharing the same name. So guess what? They were in support of their fellow Amish neighbor. I was able to snag two signatures and left packages for the rest including some embarrassing photos of his filthy kennels. You know how nose neighbors enjoy hearing these things. Maybe they will discourage him from embarrassing their community more.

It was disappointing that the BZA board selected their own items from the Comprehensive County Plan that would demonstrate how the kennel fits well into the community – It is a niche market! We could have made strong case as to why it does not fit. So the BZA could have looked at more than land use, but they choose not to. 

The BZA review process admittedly took no consideration of humane treatment of animals, compliance with laws - locally, at the state level - or federal (one petitioner claimed USDA oversight, yet USDA confirmed earlier in the day they are NOT licensed), nor the opinions, data, facts, or concerns from anyone in Noble County outside of those who live adjacent to the petitioners.

Overall, we still did an amazing job with what we ‘could do’ in the short time frame. We found out about the kennels coming forward mid December!

The petition was a huge tool - getting over 800 signatures and many included emails so we could send updates and invite locals to the meeting. We also were able to get 13 neighbors to sign in opposition.