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Proposed dog-training business draws opposition
Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission recommends approval despite concerns
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Next step

Liberty County commissioners will consider the proposal at their Sept. 1 meeting.

An effort to start a home-based dog-service business near Lake George was met with some opposition at Tuesday’s Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission meeting.

John and Lana Stanley filed an application for a Type “B” Home Occupation, for their proposed business, called Howlin’ Happy K9 Services & Training. The commission unanimously recommended approval despite neighbors’ concerns.

The petition will go before the Liberty County Board of Commissioners at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 1.

According to the Stanleys’ submitted narrative, John Stanley was a soldier who, after his last deployment to Afghanistan, began to have difficulty in public settings. This contributed to him receiving service-connected medical retirement. He was advised to get a service dog to help with his treatment and began to appreciate the bond that was formed.

Because Stanley was deemed unfit to work in a social setting after retirement, his wife proposed that he work from home. She had the idea of providing pet services, which would be a public service and help with her husband’s treatment.

Their plan is to start the business at home, save money and then move the business to another location. Services offered would include dog grooming, dog training, pet sitting, pet-waste management, and retail sales of dog-related products.

The only services that would take place in their home are dog grooming and retail sales of dog-related products. All other services would be off-site. Business hours would be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with no more than two customers at the property at any time, according to the Liberty County ordinance.

A petition was submitted with six names supporting the business proposal.

Lana Stanley, a certified dog trainer, reiterated to planning commissioners that the business allows her husband to work from home, which would be the base of operations until they move into a facility.

George Hoh, who owns a house next door to the applicants, asked commissioners for the permit to be denied. He bought the house in 2007 for his mother, who has since died, and he has been renting out the house. Hoh said that the business will have a negative effect on the market value of other homes and his ability to rent or sell the house. Hoh said his tenants have decided to not renew their lease and cited excessive dog barking as one of the reasons.

“It’s my understanding that this has been a common problem. Animal Control has been called out to the house at least once based on neighbor complaints,” Hoh said. “Although the applicant has amended his request to eliminate the kenneling and training of dogs on site … the idea of a commercial business in a neighborhood, resulting in the increase in traffic and parking at the applicant’s house, may very well have a negative impact on neighborhood property values.”

He then read a part of the Liberty County ordinance that stated how planning commissioners are supposed to consider home-occupation applications. Hoh said he was concerned with the applicants’ ability to meet the times of operation and number of customers requirement. He gave the scenario of clients picking up their dogs from the Stanleys’ home all around the same time at 5 p.m., causing parking problems. Hoh said that he recognized their intention of the business being at their home temporarily but questioned how long it would be there before moving.

Hoh, who has a son serving in Afghanistan, said he sympathizes with John Stanley needing a service dog. However, Hoh said he still feels the business should be operated in a commercial location. He said that there were places in Midway, at a relatively low cost, the Stanleys could use.

Planning Commissioner Marshall Kennemer asked Hoh if it was the Stanleys’ dog barking or someone else’s. Hoh answered that he didn’t know.

Commissioner Andrew Williams said, “We don’t know if it’s the service dog that’s barking. He has to have his service dog. We don’t know if it’s the service dog or other dogs. If he put the petition in, he shouldn’t be running a business before this was approved. But you don’t know if it was other dogs barking?”

“Just to clarify, he was running a business before approval was sought, and I guess he found out that he shouldn’t have. But he was handling dogs at his residence back in June or July,” Hoh said.

Neighbor Ernest Rollinson said his issue was the barking. He and his wife are retired and spend a lot of time doing yardwork.

“We listen to dogs barking all day on occasion. I went out there Sunday and Monday, and dogs were barking,” Rollinson said.

He mentioned that his wife has gone over and talked to the Stanleys about the barking. He asked where the dogs will be trained and looked back at Lana Stanley. She answered that it would be at a park, or the client’s home. Rollinson then started to bring up a nearby community center with a playground and children. Stanley was trying to clarify to Rollinson. The two started talking at the same time and LCPC Chairman Jack Shuman interrupted. He said they could discuss that afterward.

Rollinson apologized and asked, “What rights do we have with the barking situation?” Shuman answered that it would be an issue with Animal Control and that the barking could come from anywhere.

Rollinson then asked, “With the dog feces, that kind of thing, how are they going to dispose of it? Is it going to go down in their septic-tank system or is it scooped up and hauled away to somewhere else?”

Another neighbor, Megan Deemer, agreed with Rollinson about the noise. She said the dogs bark constantly at the Stanleys’ house. Shuman asked Stanley how many dogs she has. Lara Stanley said four, including the service dog. Deemer said that the Stanleys already have a website up for the pet business.

Lara Stanley came back up to address the neighbors’ concerns.

“On my side of the street, there are six houses that have multiple dogs. The lady that just stood up (Deemer); her dogs are out. She has three dogs of her own, and they are out majority of the day. Then you have our next-door neighbor, the gentleman right there (Rollinson). He leaves his dog out in the front yard unattended at times without a leash,” Stanley said. “Then our neighbor next door, they have two to three dogs. And the neighbors over there next to them, they have three or four dogs. So you have six houses in a row who all have dogs. When one dog barks, everyone else’s dog barks. That is simple dog psychology. So it’s going to be loud because we all have animals.”
Stanley said that their dogs are inside 95 percent of the time, are out for only 15 minutes because of the hot weather, and doesn’t leave her dogs unattended.

“After they go to the bathroom, we poop-scoop it into a container, and we double bag with grocery bags. We take it to solid waste out there. They said it was perfectly fine as long as it followed of the ordinances of the waste-management system,” Stanley said.

Commissioner Timothy Byler asked Stanley to clarify what “off-site” means for their pet services.

“It’s dog parks, anything that allows for dogs to be tethered on a leash, those are the facilities we’re talking about. You’ve got dog parks and the client’s homes,” she said.

Stanley listed the Chatham Dog Park and two dog parks on Fort Stewart as sites for training. She said it’s highly unlikely that a lot of customers would drive to Midway for dog grooming. She said there are would rather have the Stanleys groom their dogs than another pet business. Stanley said those clients are personal friends, on whose pets her husband can practice with.

“We’re not going to have eight dogs in a day. That’s not realistic,” she said.

Stanley admitted to boarding dogs at her house at first because they thought it was OK. While getting certified as a dog trainer, she learned from the instructor, who has her own dog-training business, that it was illegal to board dogs without a permit. Stanley said she had no idea and didn’t want to do anything illegal in her neighborhood, and decided to go through the process of having it approved by the county.

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