Update: This article has been updated to include comments from Susan Chana Lask, the attorney who helped Barrington residents address town officials.
Two men who have withdrawn their applications for permits to operate dog-related businesses do not have plans to re-apply for permits, and that’s the way some Barrington residents want things to stay.
In a brief phone conversation Dec. 1, Wayne Sensenig said his father, John, plans to cancel his pet dealer license which had been issued by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. If he fails to promptly surrender his license, state officials will continue a license revocation proceeding which is underway.
“Mr. Sensenig was convicted of animal cruelty after he applied for and was granted a pet dealer license. Upon notification of Mr. Sensenig’s conviction, the department began an investigation, confirmed his conviction and will begin a revocation proceeding in the event the license is not surrendered,” wrote Ag & Markets spokesperson Lisa Koumjian in an email Dec. 4. On Dec. 5 she confirmed he had contacted the department to surrender his license.
Wayne abruptly ended the phone conversation when asked what he plans to do with the dogs he currently has on his property.
New York City attorney Susan Chana Lask, who advocates against large dog breeding kennels, and who contacted Barrington officials Nov. 12 about the Sensenig's applications, commented via email, “Puppy Mills are growing at exponential rates in your area, and the Sensenig case proves that state, federal and town officials and their laws are not equipped to handle the problem.
"The solution is that every town should impose at least one year moratorium on the opening and expansion of any Puppy Mills to permit time for their boards to review the issue and receive commentary from professionals and advocates like myself and the residents,” adds Lask, who has worked pro bono to change laws in other municipalities in New York state and around the nation.
Wayne Sensenig had applied for a permit to operate a dog kennel to house 50 to 75 breeding females at his property on Porters Corners Road, and his father had planned to sell puppies from Wayne’s kennel at his neighboring home.
Five people addressed the Barrington Town Board Nov. 29, urging the board to take action to prohibit dog kennels from moving into the town.
“I live in this area and I’m tired of it being the puppy mill capital,” said one woman, who identified herself as a veterinarian who lives in neighboring Wayne. “The town should look at what it wants to be. It’s important to keep an eye on what’s going on,” she said.
Rebecca Flynn Ames presented the board with documentation she has gathered about the Sensenig’s property, raising questions about the subdivision of Wayne’s property for the construction of John’s house. She said Yates County officials did not have confirmation of the subdivision from Barrington Town Code Enforcement Officer John Griffin, so county property tax records had not been updated. Griffin did not return a call seeking information.
Susan Farmer of Hammondsport presented information about John Sensenig’s guilty plea to animal cruelty charges in Pennsylvania to the town board and encouraged the board to consider adopting a moratorium on dog kennels while new regulations are being written.
The town of Starkey recently declined an application for a kennel to house 75 adult dogs. The town of Gorham in Ontario County adopted a kennel law limiting the number of breeding dogs allowed to 200 after a year-long moratorium spurred by an application to open a commercial breeding business for up to 600 dogs.
Although both applications were reviewed with no county-wide impact noted by the Yates County Planning Board in October, opposition from town residents and animal rights activists raised more local concerns, and the pair withdrew their applications before a Barrington Town Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing was held in mid-November.
According to Koumjian, to receive a Pet Dealer License in New York State, applicants are inspected for proper sanitary conditions, food, water, handling of the animals, appropriate veterinary care, and proper records. They must also have practices in place to maintain the establishment in a clean, sanitary and humane condition as outlined by state law. Pet Dealers are subject to regular state inspections, and U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors also visit kennels regularly.
“The health and well-being of animals is a top priority of the Department,” writes Koumjian, adding “The experts in our Division of Animal Industry continuously examine existing legislation and consider changes to help strengthen the law to protect animals sold by pet dealers and the consumers that purchase them.”
Lask, who is a high-profile Manhattan attorney who works on dog kennel cases on the side, says attempts at changing state or federal regulations fall on deaf ears, so the best approach to take is for residents to work with individual towns.