Three pooches permitted on residential property

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance amendment last week raising the number of dogs people can keep by right on residential property from two to three.

“Certainly, this is a three-dog night in Chesterfield,” Vice Chairman Jim Holland said at the Feb. 10 meeting, drawing chuckles from the crowd.

Currently, the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) must approve a “special exception” for a “private kennel” to allow the private use of three or more dogs, more than four months old, on residential property, according to a staff report on the matter. The application fee for that exception is $1,000.

At its Jan. 13 meeting, the Board of Supervisors rejected a proposed ordinance amendment that would have lowered the application fee for the special exception from $1,000 to $100. The board also set a public hearing for the Planning Commission’s recommendation that the current BZA process be converted into a conditional use process, which would require public hearings before the supervisors and the commission. The commission also recommended lowering the application fee to $250 for keeping three dogs, and keeping it at $1,000 for four to nine dogs.

On Jan. 13, the board members expressed a desire to leave the special exception process with the BZA, raise the number of dogs allowed by right on residential property to three and review all of the BZA fees.

At the Feb. 10 public hearing on the issue, speakers encouraged the board to leave the special exception process with the BZA and raise the number of dogs allowed by right to three.

Bob Herndon said most, if not all, animal rescue organizations support permitting Chesterfield residents to have three dogs by right.

“Some people have even moved out of Chesterfield rather than deal with this limitation and exorbitant fee,” he said. “Three by right, countywide, is the right thing to do.”

Amy Mitchell said complaints about the number of dogs someone has often have nothing to do with the animals and are made “because the neighbor just doesn’t like you.”

Carolyn Turner said she supported allowing three dogs, as barking and wandering dogs can be regulated with existing noise ordinances and leash laws. She encouraged the board to review Fairfax County’s dog ordinance, which limits the number of dogs a person can have based on the amount of land they have.

Clover Hill District Supervisor Art Warren said he didn’t support moving from a special exception process to a conditional-use process. He said he supported allowing three dogs by right, but he thought there was a potential problem in close quarters, like apartments.

“It would make sense to me to look at the Fairfax County ordinance,” he said.

Holland, Bermuda District Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle and Matoaca District Supervisor Marleen Durfee said they also supported leaving the process with the BZA and allowing three dogs by right.

Theoretically, looking into Fairfax County’s ordinance sounds like a good idea, Jaeckle said, but most apartment complexes probably already have rules regarding dogs. The Fairfax ordinance would likely be complicated and require more enforcement efforts, she said, and she wouldn’t support looking into it.

Chairman Dan Gecker said the sentiment at the board’s last meeting was to have all the BZA fees reviewed together. Planning Director Kirk Turner said his department had reviewed the fees, and a report would go to the board the following week.

The supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance change that would allow people to keep three dogs by right in areas zoned residential. People who wanted to keep four or more dogs, more than four months old, for private use would have to apply for a special exception for a private kennel from the BZA. The fee for that application is still $1,000.

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