Zoning board approves dog breeding kennel

By on October 16, 2019

A very quiet “boo” could be heard when the Warwick Township Zoning Hearing Board announced its decision on a dog breeding kennel at the Oct. 9 zoning hearing.

The zoning hearing board granted Stephen Fisher a special exception that will allow him to operate a breeding kennel for up to 60 dogs on property at 220 Church Road.

The 55-acre property is owned by his father, Gideon Fisher, Jr. and is located in the township’s Agricultural Zone.

Nearly a dozen citizens attended the meeting to voice their concerns about what they perceived to be a “puppy mill” in the township.

Most professed to be animal-lovers, and several had rescued dogs. They were visibly upset when the zoning hearing board returned after discussing the case in a brief executive session.

“I don’t like puppy mills,” admitted Brent Schrock of the zoning hearing board, noting that at least Fisher was not trying to operate a kennel illegally.
Since the township’s ordinance allows for a special exception for a kennel in the Ag zone, Fisher was following the ordinance and going through the proper channels to apply for a kennel on his farm, he added.

Fisher had testified that he planned to build a breeding kennel on his property that would house 20-25 adult dogs. He did not specify how many would be females, although he indicated that most would be females that would be bred about twice a year. State regulations limit the number of dogs he can have on his farm to 60 at any one time.

He plans to breed small dogs, he said, mostly Shih Tzu, a toy dog breed, with a life expectancy of 10 to 16 years. The hypoallergenic dog breed is known to be intelligent, affectionate, and active. The dogs would be kept in 14 stalls or runs, with about two dogs in each stall. There would be tall fencing to confine them, surrounded by tree screening.

Fisher reported that he intended to build a play area for the dogs and their kennels would be air conditioned in summer and heated in winter. The play area has not yet been constructed.

He detailed each requirement for operating a kennel in the ag zone, pointing out that he would be building the kennel on a 10-acre portion of the farm, the dogs would not be outdoors between the hours of 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., animal waste would be composted in a manure pit 300 feet from the property line, no waste would be dumped into the nearby creek, and he would apply for a permit and license to operate a dog kennel in Pennsylvania. The state animal inspector would be doing unannounced spot checks, and Fisher would be keeping records of all dogs and puppies.

Those attending audibly gasped, however, when Elyssa Cheeseman asked for details on how the dogs would be bred. Fisher said that females would be bred twice a year starting at a year and a half in age. Typical litters are three to five puppies. The females would no longer be bred after five years of age.

“What happens after you are done breeding the females?’ asked Cheeseman.

Fisher responded, “I would try to find them a good home. If not, they would be euthanized.”

That admission followed many questions from those opposed to the proposed breeding kennel.

Diana Wade of nearby Log Cabin Road said that she walks her own dogs near the farm and has seen no sign of a play area for the dogs that are already at the Fisher farm. She wanted to know how a sick or injured dog would be cared for, or a female dog having puppies. Fisher indicated that dogs would have veterinary care.

Zoning heard board president Tom Mattison reminded Fisher that his neighbors would be watching and serving as good stewards for the community.

Carol Herr of Lititz wanted to know what kind of quality of life the dogs would have. She was concerned about the dogs only having a view of the sky above when they were outdoors in the tall wooden fenced-in area.

Rena Grimmer wondered if Fisher would be able to keep the number of dogs to below 60, and as a dog rescuer, she pointed out that there were already not enough homes for puppies that come from “dog farming” situations.

Mike Patton of United Against Puppy Mills pointed out that Lancaster County has earned a reputation for having hundreds of puppy mills, and there are only six enforcement officers in the entire state of Pennsylvania.

“There are thousands of dogs killed every year,” said Patton, adding that most puppies are sold online and owners never realize how they were raised.
While Warwick Township zoners were following the current zoning ordinance in granting the OK for the kennel, Patton said, “Your ordinance is weak. It’s nothing to be proud of.”

Mattison acknowledged that any changes in the ordinance would have to be pursued through the Warwick Township Supervisors.

The existing animal ordinance requires anyone with more than four animals to obtain licensing. They must be in properly zoned areas, such as the agricultural zone, which does allow kennels under a special exception.

“We cannot stop this, because it is in compliance with the ordinance,” noted Mattison.

Patton had estimated that there are already 10 puppy mills in Warwick Township. Zoning Officer Tom Zorbaugh later reported that he only knows of two licensed breeding kennels in Warwick

Township with more than four dogs.

There may be others in nearby Penn Township, Elizabeth Township, Clay Township, and Manheim Township.

He was aware of two puppy mills or illegal breeding kennels. One was on Ballstown Road where abandoned dogs and rescue dogs were hoarded in a woman’s home. The other was a dog breeding kennel on Brunnerville Road hidden behind a barn. Both were shut down by the dog warden and Warwick Township.

Zorbaugh said that the state inspector and the zoning officer would do the initial inspection of the kennel. After that, the state would be responsible for the breeding kennel, with Warwick

Township responsible if the kennel does not follow the guidelines of the township ordinance.

There were two other zoning hearings that were approved. One was for a variance for a detached garage on the Barry Todd property on Lexington Road and the other for a garage apartment on property on West Millport Road owned by Brandon and Beth MacCartney.

A variance request from Emanuel Smucker to sell horse comfort products from a structure on his Snavely Mill Road property was tabled, pending further information. Another request was tabled for a special exception for Mervin King to have one or two working class horses and a cow on his 1.6-acre tract on East Millport Road, when it was determined that he needed more acreage to have that many animals. King will be looking at obtaining more land from his father, who owns the original farm.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the pages of the Record Express. She welcomes feedback and story tips at lknowles21@gmail.com. 


  1. Alice

    October 17, 2019 at 10:08 am

    Deplorable!! There are so many unwanted dogs in shelters and pounds, but let us continue to line the pockets of some greedy individuals!!! Makes me so angry. Shame on you Rhode Island!🤬

  2. Sarah Salluzzo

    October 17, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    I m so embarrassed by Lancaster county. While other regions are passing legislation protecting animals we continue to put profit for a few over the welfare of animals and the public. News flash, NO ONE wants to buy a dog from a puppy mill. People either want reputable breeders or rescues. No one wants a sick dog from a tortured sick mother who spends her life crammed in a filthy cage. We are known around the country as the puppy mill capital. What a legacy.

  3. Carol L.

    October 17, 2019 at 6:14 pm

    There is absolutely NO REASON to be breeding dogs!! Nearly 3/4 million dogs are euthanized every year in the US because there are not enough homes for them. That number is astounding. Permitting more breeders and puppy mills to begin operation is going backwards. Please, please, reverse this decision which will only cause more innocent lives to be abused and horribly terminated, when so many are already at risk.

  4. Marilyn Mackey

    October 17, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    This absolutely disgraceful ans disgusting. These breeders only care about the money-not the dogs. The poor things live in filthy conditions, with little or no Vet care and aren’t given proper nutrition along with being jammed in cages their whole lives. I, personally, adopted 5 puppy mill dogs since 2006 and everyone of them had to be put down due to the horrific physical and genetic problems. I had to put 3 of down just last year

  5. Corale Bortz

    October 17, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    The township should never have allowed another puppy mill! The only way to stop this horrible use of innocent dogs is to not purchase from these people. The guy should stick to farming and raising cows like a farmer is suppose to do.

  6. Cheryl Lockhart

    October 17, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    Breeding any animal is WRONG! Don’tallow this! These animals will suffer!

  7. Sara Ryan

    October 17, 2019 at 10:52 pm

    Dogs should NEVER be bred 2xs a year!!! They only go into season twice a year. They need a break from each litter. This is totally about money & not the dogs well being. This smells of a puppy mill, no matter what the owner says 🤬

  8. Pat

    October 17, 2019 at 10:56 pm

    Who is his groomer and how often will these dogs be groomed? Why is anyone who approved this “ok” with the statement “I will try to find homes or euthanize the adult females “ after he has over bred them and used them up? These dogs are generally shut down from years of neglect and abuse. Someone needs to get a conscience about this situation.

  9. Jill

    October 22, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    What the hell is wrong with PA and why are you allowing this to happen. PA is all about puppy mills and now it’s happening in other areas outside of Lancaster. Shame on the people that approved his application. There are millions of animals euthanized every year and this country doesn’t need one more breeder adding to those numbers.

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