A Lodi couple’s plan to operate a kennel dedicated to breeding Aussiedor dogs was denied by county supervisors Tuesday, who cited noise and the potential for an excess of canines on the property.
Maria Dolan and her husband Nestor Piva had been operating the kennel at their home on the 15000 block of East Tokay Colony Road since 2019, but without any permits.
According to San Joaquin County Community Development staff, nine noise complaints were lodged against the couple between 2019 and 2022, of which two resulted in code enforcement citations being issued in 2019 and 2020. The coupe were also told to cease operations.
After the second citation, the couple applied for permits to operate the kennel, but neighbors voiced concern over noise.
The San Joaquin County Planning Commission denied the application, and the couple appealed the decision before supervisors on Tuesday.
Speaking through a translator, Piva told supervisors he and his wife plan to breed the dogs — a mix of Australian Shepherd and Labrador Retriever — to assist people with special needs.
“The breed is really smart, and it’s for special need kids,” he said. “They are used for autism, or If anybody needs a company dog for anxiety or any kind of disability. All the dogs have a DNA check to make sure they’re not carrying any disease. Their temperament is known as being affectionate, loyal, soft and friendly toward those they recognize, and they tend to bark a lot.”
Piva said all the complaints neighbors made about noise were caused by their own dogs, not his. He presented videos he recorded with his cell phone that show a neighbor’s dog barking excessively, while he claimed his dogs remained calm
He alleged that his neighbors have complained not only about barking dogs in the area, but about a tool shed he built that was unrelated to the kennel, when he mows the grass on the property he rents, or if he and his wife play music.
Piva asserted his neighbors simply do not like the fact he and his wife are Latino.
The couple live on a property that contains three houses, one of which is inhabited by the landlord.
Community development staff said county code allows for a maximum of three dogs per household as pets. With the three homes on the property in question, a maximum of nine are permitted as pets.
For the kennel, Piva had asked to keep nine dogs, in addition to the dogs he and his wife keep as family pets.
County staff said there is a potential for 18 adult dogs on site that include pets and those in the kennel. Puppies would not be included in the total number of animals until they were weaned, staff said.
The kennel cages are located outdoors on the property, and consist of chain link fence and gates, along with black mesh coverings along the sides.
Staff said during both code enforcement investigations in 2019 and 2020, officer found more than nine dogs on the couple’s property, violating county code.
Neighbor Ross Stoddart said at one point over the last four years, there were as many as 15 dogs on the site. He said he and the other eight neighbors in the area would not be against a kennel if the couple were operating one that ensured the safety of the dogs, as well as minimal noise.
“This is not a conditioned kennel,” he said. “When its 30 degrees outside, those dogs are out in the exposure. According to the (San Joaquin County) Sheriff, these kennels meet the ‘minimum requirement.’ We always like to give the benefit of the doubt, but I would ask you deny this based on comments from the neighbors and planning commission. And if they want to put in a new building to do this, they can put in a new application.”
Gene Stoddart also lives near the couple, and said the issue is about the noise generated by the dogs, not discrimination.
He said Piva and Dolan are good people, but they should have gone through the proper channels to start a business in the neighborhood.
“I wouldn’t wish this on anybody, I wouldn’t wish this on (the applicant).” he said. “I feel bad for what they’ve had to go through, but the thing is, they didn’t talk to anybody when they put this operation in. They got cited once, and they should have known then that they should have done something correctly. They got cited a second time, and this is where we’re at today.”
Clerk of the Board Rachel DeBord read three letters from residents supporting Piva and Dolan, all of which said the couple loved animals and were good people.
“I am very sad thinking they must separate,” Juan Flores wrote. “This is their house, they’re part of the family. Please touch your heart and let them keep the dogs with this family. Someone who don’t have a good love for animals can be a good neighbor and need to learn from others. These dogs have a lot of love. Please keep them together.”
Supervisor Tom Patti said his parents had operated a kennel when he was younger, and there are typically two males and a couple females that could give breeders a couple litters of about five puppies a year.
“I’m struggling with this,” he said. “It seems like a puppy mill when you have this many dogs for breeding purposes. I mean, we have numerous shelters that are overrun with dogs that are homeless and euthanized on a regular basis. We’re looking at a large scale operation for puppies at this point.”
Supervisor Kathy Miller agreed, stating 18 adult dogs, along with an unknown amount of puppies 300 feet from the nearest neighbor would only create more conflict.
“I also read (in the application) that they are planning to keep puppies for 90 days with about six litters a year,” she said. “Multiply (six litters) by 90 days, they’re going to have at least one litter at all times, and will have probably two litters of puppies at one time. That’s a lot of dogs.”
Supervisors voted 4-1 to uphold the planning commission’s decision, with Supervisor Robert Rickman casting the lone dissenting vote.