Benton OKs dog breeding facility

John Christensen

In a Dec. 6 public hearing, the Benton Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved a dog breeding facility proposed by Mervin Horst at 3216 Rte. 364, but with stipulations. Horst already has 20 dogs of six small breeds, including Boston Terriers, Pugs, and Shih-tzus. 

When he licensed them and sought the state breeder’s license from the New York State Dept. of Agriculture and Markets, they told him he would need the variance from the town.

Horst’s request for a special use permit for a 20-dog breeding operation was disapproved by the Yates County Planning Board at its Nov. 17 meeting in a 7–4 vote.

Board member Ron Rubin made the motion to disapprove, saying it would have a “negative countywide impact” for Yates County to be known as a place that allowed such breeding facilities. The Benton Planning Board likewise disapproved the request at their Nov. 29 meeting.

At the meeting of the ZBA, 10 of Horst’s neighbors were in attendance. The first to speak mentioned the county’s reason for refusal, and hoped this board would do the same, referring to the facility as a puppy mill. He also spoke of the potential disruption of 20 adult dogs and numerous puppies.

Another neighbor, who claimed to be the closest home to Horst’s, raised a series of objections; the noise of barking dogs and puppies that would disrupt the peace he had moved to the country to find, the smell of composting dog waste, the fact that no other such facility had been allowed in Benton, and the possible diminishment of his property values. He believes approval would create unwanted and unneeded issues.

But several other neighbors said that there were no problems at all and that Horst was very kind to all of his animals. They also objected to their other neighbor’s characterization of it as a puppy mill, saying that the dogs are well socilaized, happy, and that Horst knows them all by name.

Horst’s veterinarian, Courtney Hayes, said she visits every two to three months and spoke of the small size of the facility — no more than 20 breeding dogs, and the dog’s excellent health due to the care Horst gives them. She said the facility is very clean and climate controlled. Hayes said the wire bottomed cages are rubber coated and are properly sized for the dog breeds. She also stated that dogs and puppies are healthier if they aren’t treading in their own waste as they would be in solid bottom cages. Horst will also place a rubber mat in each cage for the dogs to get off the wire if they like, and the dogs will have daily time in outdoor runs, weather permitting. Hayes called it a good operation with conscientious, hands-on people and well-socialized, happy dogs.

Horst promised to work with the board, the neighbors and the code enforcement officer on any noise issues. He said that he only sells puppies directly to the public at his facility by appointment.

After the ZBA chairman Dwight James asked for a motion, there followed an extremely long silence. After careful review, and praising Horst’s willingness to do things the right way, member Jim Wilson moved for approval with the following stipulations; indoor kennels will be increased from 12 square feet to 16 square feet (bringing the possible number of adult dogs down to 16), that a verbal lease agreement with a neighbor be put in writing due to a setback issue, that all Ag. & Market, state, and federal regulations be followed, outside lighting be installed for buyers, proper burial of any dead animals be at least three feet deep, waste will be properly composted, and any noise complaints made before June will be addressed by a noise barrier.

With these stipulations in place and Horst’s agreement to be inspected by code enforcement officer John Griffin, the ZBA voted unanimously to grant the site variance.