A DeKalb County dog breeder failed Thursday to get the support of the Ogle County Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to expand her kennel to Ogle County.
After a five-hour hearing, the ZBA voted 3-2 to deny Christie Hardt’s request for a special use permit for a commercial dog kennel on property she and her husband Robert DeCosta own northeast of Kings.
Several county residents spoke in opposition to the kennel, voicing concerns that it is a “puppy mill,” and 2,500 signed a petition against it.
Hardt is the owner of B&C Kennels, Clare, located in DeKalb County west of Annie Glidden Road.
She hopes to establish a second facility at 14189 E. Dutch Rd. on the east side of Ogle County.
The site is zoned for agricultural use, and the request asks for a special use permit to allow dog breeding, import and sale of puppies, dog grooming, and dog obedience training at the kennel.
Hardt told the ZBA that she wants to move the puppy sales from Clare to the new location.
She said she sells an average of 100 pups a month, most of which come from A-1 Kennels, Morris Chapel, Tennessee, which is owned by her cousin Angela Shubert.
The dog breeding part of her business would remain in Clare, where Hardt and DeCosta reside.
Hardt said she breeds French bulldogs, Yorkshire terriers, and schnauzers and sells those puppies as well.
She estimated that as many as 115 dogs might be at the Dutch Road location at times, including the puppies for sale, pets owned by her employees, and her own “office dogs.”
An employee who lives at the site also has dogs.
Three people are employed full-time by B&C, including Hardt and DeCosta, and four part-time.
A Power Point presentation showed operations at the Clare facility and the plans to develop the Dutch Road facility.
Hardt told the ZBA that she is licensed and her customers come from all over the U.S. to purchase puppies.
She does not sell dogs to pet stores. “I will only sell to individuals,” she said.
Hardt read a statement refuting allegations that she runs a puppy mill.
Debbie Oracki, Byron, spoke in support of Hardt and her kennel, after purchasing a puppy there.
“We had a great experience with B&C Kennels,” she said. “I can tell she [Christie] loves each and every puppy.”
Julie Siemanowski, St. Charles, agreed. She bought a puppy from Hardt and then liked the kennel so much she went to work there for a time.
“B&C Kennels is not a puppy store that sells puppies that come from mills,” she asserted.
However, others were not so favorable.
In fact, Elizabeth DeArvil, Chana, presented the ZBA with a petition opposing the special use signed, she said, by 2,500 Ogle County residents.
Hardt’s attorney Diane Elliott, DeKalb, objected to the petition because of its wording, which includes not wanting “puppy mills” in the county.
“If you brought that to me, stated like that, I would sign it,” Elliott said.
DeArvil said the wording doesn’t specifically say B&C Kennels.
“Then what’s the relevance here?” asked another woman.
DeArvil asked how breeding puppies can be justified when so many unwanted dogs are euthanized annually.
Bethany Wiltshire, Oregon, questioned Hardt about a complaint that a Boston terrier she sold had brucellosis, a serious and incurable disease that can be spread to humans.
Hardt said she obtained the pup from A-1 Kennels, which had received it from a breeder in Mississippi that she no longer uses.
The buyer had the dog for some time before the disease was detected, Hardt said, so the origin was in question.
Ogle County Animal Control Administrator Tom Champley, a retired Oregon veterinarian, questioned Hardt about a Maltese-Yorkshire terrier mix puppy that also tested positive for brucellosis.
Hardt said the buyer had that dog for two years before the disease was diagnosed.
Champley he believes B&C has sold puppies that have serious, lifelong health issues and encouraged the ZBA to vote against Hardt’s request.
“B&C Kennels is not a puppy mill. I’m not saying you are, and I’m not saying A-1 Kennels is,” he said. “But you are a mega-breeder.”
He said the kennels have too few staff members to adequately care for the number of dogs they have.
Stacy McCallen, Leaf River, agreed. “You can’t have 100 puppies and tell me that they are all loved and cared for as they should be,” she said.
Veterinarian Patricia Holm, Oregon, said she formerly did veterinary work for B&C and was initially impressed.
However, as time went on, she said, some of the health issues she brought up were ignored.
“There were some concerns that were not being addressed,” she said.
The request will next go to the Planning & Zoning Committee for its recommendation on May 9, and then to the Ogle County Board for a final decision on May 16.
The Regional Planning Commission voted to recommend denial of Hardt’s special use permit on March 23, and the White Rock Township Board also passed a resolution opposing the facility.
Earlier in the day April 27, Hardt appeared at a hearing in DeKalb County to request an amendment to her special use permit there.