Loudoun County dog owners pay an annual fee to license their dogs, per state law, but hunting and breeding kennels may be eligible for a bulk discount depending on what is recommended by the county’s Department of Animal Services — and what the Board of Supervisors decides.
To inform that recommendation, Animal Services will host a public input session on Feb. 16 for county residents to give their thoughts on whether hunting and breeding kennel operators should maintain individual licenses for each dog in their care or have the ability to purchase bulk licenses at a reduced fee. The session will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Lovettsville Room of the Loudoun County Government Center in Leesburg, Loudoun County Animal Services (LCAS) Director Nina Stively said.
A kennel is defined by the Code of Virginia as “any establishment in which five or more canines… are kept for the purpose of breeding, hunting, training, renting, buying, boarding, selling or showing,” and the announcement of possible changes to licensing requirements has left many Loudoun kennel owners — and dog-owners generally — concerned and confused.
Boarding kennel owners like Suzanne Wilcox of VIP Boarding Kennel and Mike Edelheit of Old Mill Boarding Kennel were confused as to what brought this on. Both require dogs that come to their kennels to have their vaccinations up to date but don’t require licensing. Boarding kennels used to have to be licensed but now just have to obtain a permit from the county.
“I think it would be beneficial (for kennels to be licensed) if it means Animal Services would inspect kennels, especially kennels with lots of dogs so that the public knew they were safe,” Wilcox said.
Stively acknowledged the confusion about what LCAS is contemplating, and said that the focus is how to go about the licensing of the animals, not the kennel itself — and specifically on hunting and breeding kennels which own the dogs that live there. Those kennels had the right to purchase bulk licenses for dogs they own taken away in 2014, when kennels were moved from under LCAS to the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning for regulation. Dog kennel applications now go to planning and zoning to ensure compliance with zoning and other business requirements, then are referred to LCAS for compliance with dog licensing.
Hunting and breeding kennels that own the dogs who reside there must submit individual applications for dog licenses, and Stively believes there may be merit to giving those kennels back the right they had before 2014 to purchase those licenses in bulk and at a reduced cost. That might also serve to attract more such businesses to Loudoun.
Individual dog owners pay $10 for a license per dog, each year. If the language that would allow LCAS to offer bulk licenses for kennels with 10 or more dogs is added to the county ordinance, LCAS could charge breeding and hunting kennels $1-$5 per dog instead, Stively said, and have a nominal impact on overall LCAS revenue. Those kennels would still be responsible for submitting all the same rabies vaccination paperwork as owners of individual dogs, and the processing of the paperwork would be the same.
“The law treats all types of kennels the same, whether it’s a high volume breeder or a hunting kennel. If you’ve got 150 dogs or if you’ve got six dogs, the law is looking at you the same,” Stively said. “Right now, they would have to pay, just like an individual would. So if you’ve got 100 breeding dogs, you would have to pay $10 per dog to us per year for a license. If we were to go with this bulk rate, it would enable them to have a lower cost.”
There are 20 to 30 breeding and/or hunting kennels in Loudoun, Stively said. Some of these commercial operations can be quite large — such as some hunting kennels which has around 170 dogs — which is why some hunting and breeding kennel owners felt it was unfair that the county could no longer offer them discounted bulk license rates when the 2014 ordinance went into place.
“We want the people of Loudoun to weigh in with their thoughts and opinions on the matter so that the department can make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on licensing requirements for kennels,” Stively said “We know that Loudoun is an animal-loving community and hope that our citizens take this opportunity to guide the county in developing ordinances that help keep Loudoun’s pets safe and healthy.”
She said she expected the recommendation to be ready in the late spring or early summer.
There are 49,921 dogs licensed in Loudoun which is equal to roughly 45 percent of dogs in the county. Most other jurisdictions have a much lower licensing rate, Stively said.
Dog licensing assists in reuniting lost pets with their families — of which Loudoun has an 80 percent return rate — and also ensures that animals have current rabies vaccinations. Licensing fees support Animal Services programs including the care and housing for approximately 2,000 stray and abandoned animals a year, investigations of animal neglect and cruelty, emergency rescue and response services, adopting homeless pets, and community outreach and education programs, Stively said.
Loudoun County residents who cannot attend the public session may submit feedback by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to the Loudoun County Animal Shelter. Those submitting feedback in writing should include their full name and address. Written feedback will be collected until close of business Feb. 17.