It’s a controversial topic some call dog breeding and others call puppy mills, and we’ve been following one local breeder since 2008. Elkhart County’s zoning board decided Thursday that man will not be able to add an additional 41 adult dogs to his operation.
More than three years ago, WSBT investigated that breeder's operation with a hidden camera, followed state puppy mill legislation and presented all sides of the debate. In 2009 the zoning board gave the breeder permission to have 64 adult dogs and build a second kennel to help house them. Thursday he faced a room full of opposition as he asked the board to raise that number to 105 adult dogs.
Inside the packed meeting, that breeder – David Chupp – gave his side first.
“We’re not a puppy mill. There are bad breeders out there and there are good breeders,” he told the zoning board. “Calling us a puppy mill is slanderous and derogatory.”
Records show Chupp is registered with Indiana’s State Board of Animal Health and licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Some of Chupp’s neighbors, County Commissioner Mike Yoder and a spokesman from the Elkhart County Farm Bureau supported this request to grow his operation by about 40 adult dogs.
“If the person doing this is in compliance with their regulations and working diligently to meet those standards, there should not even been a zoning issue for you folks to have to deal with,” said Farm Bureau spokesman Dwight Moudy.
“As far as I know his kennels are clean and the property looks good,” added Carl Chupp, a neighbor of David Chupp’s.
But the opposition didn’t hold back.
“These animals are not livestock,” said Elkhart County Humane Society Director Anne Reel.
“These animals are going into homes, they’re living with children. They are pets.”
“Your decision today will be a reflection on the county on an issue that is very important to many people,” Valerie Schey added.
One woman asked the board why the dogs had to be in cages with little moving space when Chupp has 46 acres of land.
“Please limit this man’s dogs,” pleaded Elkhart County resident Nancy Vida.
Ultimately, the zoning board renewed his permit to have 64 adult breeding dogs but did not allow him the 105 he requested.
USDA documents show Chupp has consistently had more than 64 adult dogs on his property. One report from January 2011 says he had up to 96.
The wording on his permit says he’s allowed to have 64 ADULT BREEDING DOGS. Chupp told the board the USDA was counting retired dogs and, in some cases, puppies over four months old that he hadn’t sold yet.
People opposed to Chupp’s operation also brought up the fact that the breeder has had several USDA violations in the past few years. Those violations included everything from puppies who needed veterinary care, to excessive piles of feces and puppy's feet dangling through mesh wire flooring.
One zoning board member said having violations like that is part of being in business and it's OK as long as they were corrected.