City denies dog boarding business request


A local dog trainer has been denied a land use variance that would have allowed her to board clients’ dogs at her home.

Monica Rivera, owner of Dog Training with Monica, was seeking to vary from single-family residential zoning to commercial zoning at her residence at 1601 Murray Hill Drive in Seymour.

She already had been boarding a few dogs during the past year with no complaints filed against her and only recently learned she was not in compliance with city code.

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Rivera provided the boarding service at the request of some of her close clients who didn’t want to put their dogs in a kennel when going out of town.

The Seymour Plan Commission approved the variance with a vote of 5-4 on July 10, but the city board of zoning appeals overturned the decision by denying the petition 5-0 during a meeting Tuesday.

Dave Eggers, who sits on both boards, said he didn’t like voting against Rivera but felt it was in the best interest of the neighborhood.

“I cannot find a way to support this in a residential neighborhood,” he said. “But there’s not a doubt in my mind that you do everything necessary to accommodate these animals to the best of your ability and utilize a safe environment for these dogs.”

Attorney Travis Thompson represented Rivera during both meetings.

“Monica is a dog lover. She has made her home and her career out of caring for pets,” Thompson said.

Her business is located at Shops at Seymour on the far east side of Seymour, where she holds dog training classes.

“That has more or less evolved, not by her design or her interest in opening a new business but through her customers as they have requested that she board their dogs while they are unable to care for them,” Thompson said.

The boarding has been intermittent, but there is enough clientele that there is a constant revolving door of animals coming in and out of Rivera’s home, he added.

Rivera said she boards one to two dogs a couple of times a month at least but more around the holidays and during the summer when people go on vacation.

Her property insurance policy would not permit her to have more than 10 dogs in the home. She already has five dogs of her own, so she would not be boarding more than five more at any given time.

At the request of the plan commission, she agreed to lower that number to no more than four additional dogs.

Thompson said the business should not have any effect on the prices of surrounding real estate because there would be no signage or modifications such as outdoor kennels or dog runs.

“The animals stay in the house and are let out only to go to the bathroom and then they come back in,” Thompson said. “There is no outward sign other than a few more dogs seen coming in and out of the door.”

A couple of people spoke in favor of the petition: Heather Chase, who is a client, and local dog groomer, Amy Engleking.

Chase said she will not take her dogs to a kennel where staff “shut the lights off at night and go home.”

But many more, mainly neighbors, turned out to speak in opposition.

Breann Lawson, who lives nearby on East 16th Street, said she doesn’t like the idea of the dogs getting loose and going after people, especially children or other pets in the neighborhood.

Thompson said Rivera wouldn’t accept aggressive dogs into her home because it would impact the safety of her own dogs.

“She’s a very good dog trainer. I would hope she would be able to spot an aggressive dog,” he said.

June Creech has lived on East 16th Street for 28 years and said there is no place for such a business in a residential neighborhood.

Dave Nichter owns apartments on East 16th Street and has lived there since 1972. He said Rivera’s home is adjacent to Seymour-Redding Elementary School and an increase in noise from barking dogs could be an issue for teachers and students.

Because Rivera’s home is on a dead end street, Nichter said the business could create a traffic problem with people picking up and dropping off their dogs.

“Are we here for dogs or are we here for homeowners?” he asked the board.

Rick Rude and his wife, Donna, live next to Rivera and said they are concerned by the possible smell of that many dogs at one residence and the potential for a flea and tick infestation.

Rivera said she hires someone to clean and sanitize her backyard once a week. She also requires all of her clients’ dogs to be current on their vaccinations and flea and tick prevention before she will board them.

Rude also voiced concern his property value would drop being next to a business.

“If the variance is approved, then what’s next in the neighborhood? Does that open the door for other commercial businesses?” he asked.

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