Neighbors voice complaints with dog kennel


A local dog kennel is coming under the scrutiny of the city after ongoing complaints from neighbors about excessive noise and smell coming from the business.

K9 Campers has operated at 523 E. Second St. in Seymour since 2013. It is owned and operated by Suzanne Steltenpohl and her daughter, Izzy Smith, and provides dog grooming, boarding and day care services.

Bobbie Jo and Eric Hess live directly across Blish Street from the business and say it is a “common nuisance” and therefore is in violation of city code.

The Hesses brought their complaints to the Seymour Board of Public Works and Safety on Jan. 23.

“The dogs are out at 4 or 5 a.m. barking continuously,” Bobbie Jo said. “When the dogs aren’t barking, the employees are yelling. It’s nonstop.”

Steltenpohl said that isn’t the case, as employees do everything they can to keep noise levels down in the early morning hours, including limiting the number of dogs outside to no more than three at a time. Also, the dogs are never left outside unsupervised, she said.

“We have some dogs that arrive as early as 5:30 a.m., but they don’t all start going out until about 8 a.m.,” Steltenpohl said.

She doesn’t dispute the dogs bark, but she refuses to keep them inside in crates all day. The dogs have freedom to go in and out of the building to play and socialize in a large fenced-in area in front of the business or in their inside playground.

“That’s the difference between us and other places,” Steltenpohl said.

The Hesses say they have to turn up the volume on the television in their living room loud enough to block out the noise of the barking dogs.

The couple shared pictures and videos taken from inside their home where you can hear dogs barking at 6:30 a.m. when their children are trying to sleep.

“Our kids can’t sleep in their rooms at night because of the noise of the dogs,” Bobbie Jo said. “They shouldn’t have to get woke up early because of the dogs barking.”

Bobbie Jo said dog feces also is a problem.

“The smell in the area is just atrocious, especially in the summertime,” she said. “It’s just disgusting. I can’t be outside of my home because of the smell, because of the noise.”

Smith said the only smell is around their trash dumpsters where they dispose of dog waste.

“We use a product called Kennel Fresh, which contains an enzyme that’s safe for animals and humans that actually just eats away leftover urine or feces that you might not see,” Steltenpohl said.

When customers let their dogs out, Bobbie Jo said they allow them to defecate in the Hesses’ yard and fight with their own dogs.

Once the dogs are turned over to their owners, they become the owners’ responsibility, not K9 Campers, Steltenpohl said.

But even then dogs are not allowed to run loose, she added.

“The dogs leave here on a leash,” she said.

Accompanying the Hesses at the meeting were another neighbor and the owner of a nearby rental home, both of whom shared the same complaints.

Seymour Mayor Matt Nicholson said the city would look into the matter and try to come up with a solution.

“The best answer I can give you at the moment is let us take it under advisement,” Nicholson said. “Let us explore it a little bit and see what we can figure out.”

The Hesses have owned their home on East Second Street since 2008.

“We’ve been there long before they were,” Bobbie Jo said.

Although the property is zoned commercial, she said they’ve never had any trouble with other businesses that were there before K9 Campers.

“There was never an issue,” she said.

She’s also concerned because her property value has decreased over the years, she said.

“Nobody is going to move into our home,” she said. “We can’t sell our home to get away from the noise, to get away from the smell. Nobody is going to buy it next to that.”

Bobbie Jo said the landlord of the rental home to the west of K9 Campers had to lower his rent to be able to rent out the home due to the fact it is right next to the business.

The Hesses have been complaining to the city for the past three years but have not received any help, Eric said.

“Basically, we’ve got police telling the city ordinance guy that they’re not going to enforce the ordinance because the permit shouldn’t have been issued to begin with,” Eric said. “The ordinance guy is saying the police should enforce it and write tickets.”

But Steltenpohl said the reason the city hasn’t taken action is because they can’t find anything wrong. The business has continued to pass its annual kennel inspection and health department and fire inspections.

“There is protocol in place for everything — protocol for cleaning, protocol for sanitizing, protocol if somebody brings in a sick dog,” she said.

There are bigger problems in the neighborhood other than barking dogs, including drugs, violence and suspicious activity, she added.

Steltenpohl said they have actively been looking for a new location in order to have more room. K9 Campers has grown over the years with only a few dogs to around 40 regular daily clients, Steltenpohl said. She also has had to increase her staff to 12 employees.

“We have been searching for over two years,” she said.

But they haven’t found a location that suits their needs and one they can afford.

Bobbie Jo said she isn’t against having dogs, as she has two large dogs of her own.

“I love dogs,” she said. “We’re not opposed to the dogs. It’s just the number of dogs in the area, the noise they’re making, the smell it’s making, the intrusion on our daily lives, making it impossible to even be comfortable in our own home.”

The couple say they just want their complaints to be heard and for someone to do something about it.

“It’s making our lives miserable,” Eric said.

By addressing the issue now, Bobbie Jo said it could prevent a similar situation from happening in the future.

“There’s nothing in the ordinances to show that this is unacceptable,” she said. “I think it might be something the city needs to look at, adding something to the ordinances to prevent this from happening in the future to others.”

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