Foes of the facility proposed near Little Falls, Minn., worry about debarking and waste. The owner says he will run a humane operation.
A proposed breeding kennel with 600 small dogs has some rural Morrison County neighbors and others speaking out -- in part, because at least some of the animals won't be able to speak for themselves.
"It would be deafening to hear that many dogs bark, but the [kennel] owner's idea to have some of them debarked just doesn't seem fair," Vicki Davis, executive director of the Tri-County Humane Society in St. Cloud, said Tuesday. "Dogs bark out of frustration. Some will be in cages. They should be able to bark."
The proposed kennel's size has others upset. "Six hundred! Oh, my God, sounds like a puppy mill," said Joyce Borglund, who says she has bred dogs for 11 years in Prior Lake.
Neighbors of the proposed kennel northeast of Little Falls, Minn., also are concerned about dog manure polluting wetlands.
But some of the biggest noise is being made about the proposed debarking, a surgical procedure that reduces a dog's bark to a hoarse, raspy sound that many people find just as annoying.
The American Humane Association strongly discourages debarking. The surgery is rarely performed at the University of Minnesota's small-animal clinic, said an official for the university's veterinary college.
But not all of the cocker spaniels, dachshunds, Yorkshire terriers and other toy or miniature breeds at this kennel for small dogs would be debarked, said Gary McDuffee, 52, who is proposing the 40-acre facility in Belle Prairie Township. And, McDuffee added, "The debarking is done in a very humane manner."
Only the adult dogs that spend a lot of time outside -- a small percentage -- will be debarked, said McDuffee, a special-education teacher who says he has been in the dog-breeding business for 25 years.
Roger Nelson, who lives fewer than 1,000 feet from the proposed kennel, organized a petition of township residents concerned about dog manure spreading to area wetlands and the Mississippi River. However, the County Board deemed an environmental review unnecessary, voting 4 to 1 against it this month.
"We spend thousands of dollars to clean up lakes and rivers, and now we're gong to have dog manure that could run off into the Mississippi?" said Nelson, 69. "It's a terrible idea."
Owner started other kennel
But the county has had no complaints about another large breeding kennel that McDuffee helped start in 2001 and foresees no problems with the proposed kennel, said Tim Houle, Morrison County's administrator.
"There was no controversy at all," McDuffee said of the existing kennel, which is 10 to 12 miles from the site of the proposed facility. Debarking is conducted there.
As for why he's facing opposition now, McDuffee said, "We have people in the area who don't want a kennel. ... It's something new to them."
The Tri-County Humane Society's Davis, who has lived in St. Cloud all of her life, said the other kennel was not brought to her attention when it opened. "If I would've heard about it," she said, "I would've done the same thing I'm doing now" regarding the Belle Prairie Township site.
The waste produced by 600 adult dogs weighing from 10 to 14 pounds apiece is equal to the manure of eight steers, Houle said. "Around here, nobody would be worked up over eight steers," he said. "In Morrison County, that's hardly a hobby farm."
As for debarking, Houle said, "These are only the dogs that will be kept outside. How many 10- to 14-pound dogs are kept outside during the winter in northern Minnesota? I don't think we're talking about many dogs."
The kennel's number of adult dogs -- 600 --would likely make it one of the larger dog-breeding kennels in the state, McDuffee said.