No new dog kennels will be permitted in the Town of Starkey until after town officials write new local regulations for the operation of such businesses within the town.

The town board enacted a moratorium on issuing permits for commercial dog kennels Feb. 8 after a public hearing during which several town residents and visitors offered their input. While a majority of those present felt a moratorium was not necessary, several others spoke out against the industry as a whole. Others specifically targeted existing kennel businesses, criticizing their operations.

An informal count resulted in 18 people opposing a moratorium and eight favoring it.

During the board’s deliberations,  Supervisor George Lawson said he believes a moratorium isn’t necessary, that the town officials can work on updating laws without a moratorium. But in the end, he voted with Councilmen Fred Shoemaker and Jack Ossont to adopt the measure.

Ossont said, “We don’t have any codes that are up to date about composting, so it’s our responsibility to take a look at those regulations and bring them up to date.” He also said the town has the responsibility to respect the sentient beings that are treated as livestock.

Shoemaker said he feels the town’s laws are out-dated. “I want to make sure the dogs that grow up in this town are good dogs.” He promised to work to protect the rights of any person who is currently operating a kennel or who wants to operate a kennel in the future.

Giles said, “These are honest hard-working people who are already regulated. If we need to make changes to the town laws, I don’t see that a moratorium is needed.”

Councilmen Bill Holgate and Alan Giles voted against the moratorium, saying they felt changes to the town laws can be made without it. “We spent all this time on the moratorium. Why didn’t we just spend this time on the issue?” asked Holgate.

While the term of the moratorium is one year, Lawson says he thinks new local regulations can be written within three months.

“It can be done. It’s not going to be a 12-month thing,” he said.

During the moratorium, an existing kennel operator may apply to the town planning board for approval of projects that improve the welfare of the animals.

Putting the brakes on permitting the operation of commercial dog kennels in the town came up last fall after the town planning board did not approve a permit because of concerns, primarily about the safe disposal of animal waste.

The board set meetings to begin work on local regulations for Feb. 22 and March 1, both beginning at 7 p.m. in the town hall. Lawson suggested the town require composting of feces on a solid surface, and then spreading the compost on crops that are not used for human consumption. He said he would also like to see outside runs for the animals and solid floors in their living areas rather than cages with wire floors.

Commercial dog kennels are licensed or permitted and inspected by either the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Federal and/or state officials inspect the kennels periodically. However, some who attended the public hearing criticized that oversight as being ineffective.

Kennel operators said they have an interest in keeping their dogs healthy and well-cared for.