558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Whitmore kennel exempted from barking laws
Laws don’t apply because the kennel is a for-profit operation
November 15, 2012
For the past four years, a Prineville-area kennel owner has faced numerous complaints and court appearances regarding her kennel because of barking dogs.
Following a recent Crook County Circuit Court ruling, she may never face another one.
Last Friday, Circuit Court Judge Gary Williams ruled that the Juniper Canyon-area kennel owned by Sylvia Whitmore is exempt from County public nuisance dog laws because the facility is a for-profit business.
The decision did not sit well with Marie McPherren, who has lived near the kennel for the past year and a half.
“It’s just not fair to the homeowners up here,” she said. “This is the most biased place I have ever lived. It’s just like outsiders have no rights.”
The case originated from two separate barking dog complaints filed against Whitmore in April 2012. Although Crook County Deputy District Attorney Vicky Schwartz filed a motion to dismiss, she said that Williams opted to delay the ruling on that motion until the end of the trial.
Consequently, Williams heard evidence from both sides of the case, ultimately ruling that Whitmore was exempt from public nuisance dog laws.
“Her defense was that she was not a ‘keeper’ and therefore the barking dog statutes basically don’t apply to her,” said Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins.
Oregon Revised Statute 609.035 states that a person who owns or cares for dogs is not a keeper if they are a licensed business primarily intended to obtain a profit from kenneling dogs. The statute goes on to state that veterinary facilities, humane societies, and municipal or county impounding facilities also do not fall under the keeper definition.
Because Whitmore operates a business intended to obtain a profit, Williams ruled she was not a keeper. Since public nuisance dog statutes apply to keepers, he ruled that she is exempt from such laws.
In order to operate a for-profit dog kennel, Whitmore is required to maintain a kennel license through Crook County. According to the current County animal control ordinance, in section 6.04.025, to obtain a kennel license, a person must care for a minimum of five dogs; apply with the Crook County animal control board; ensure that every dog in the kennel is vaccinated; and maintain minimum care conditions on the property as determined by the animal control board after an inspection of the premises. The kennel is also subject to yearly inspections by an animal control deputy.
Crook County Undersheriff John Gautney conducted the most recent inspection of Whitmore’s kennel and determined that the facility was in compliance. He said that the kennels were clean, the dogs were provided adequate food, clean water, and shelter, and the animals appeared to be in good physical condition.
McPherren contends that the recent court ruling opens the door for all owners of multiple dogs to escape barking complaint penalties.
“We were like, ‘Oh, well that’s really interesting,’” she said. “So now everybody in Prineville who has barking dogs just runs down and gets a (kennel) license.”
Despite those assertions, case law dictates that a person must not only meet the requirements for a kennel license, but operate that kennel as a for-profit business to receive exemption from public nuisance dog laws.
This is not the first time that Whitmore has faced legal challenges from neighbors regarding her kennel. Richard and Linda Siegert felt the kennel violated land use laws. The case ultimately went to the Oregon Court of Appeals, who ruled in 2011 that Whitmore could legally operate the kennel on her property.