Montcalm County grandfathers in dog kennel arrangement

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 12:07 pm on Thursday, April 20, 2017

Dawn Thurwatcher, at right, and Montcalm County Animal Control Director Angela Hollinshead, far left, listen as attorney Jourdan Rasmussen argues for Montcalm County commissioners to grandfather in Thurwatcher’s kennel license for her miniature dachshunds in Edmore. Commissioners agreed to grandfather Thurwatcher’s arrangement. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

STANTON — After two years of disagreement, Montcalm County officials are allowing an Edmore woman to have a dog kennel in her basement by grandfathering the arrangement.

Dawn Thurwatcher has bred longhaired miniature dachshunds for two decades.

Animal Control denied Thurwatcher’s kennel license in May 2015 because Thurwatcher keeps some of her dogs in the walk-out basement of her home, while some dogs are allowed upstairs due to old age or medical-related reasons. This goes against the county’s ordinance, which requires a kennel to be located somewhere other than inside a human dwelling.

In August 2015, after two failed motions, commissioners approved granting Thurwatcher’s appeal.

In October 2016, commissioners voted to withdraw Thurwatcher’s temporary approval, which would force her to either individually license each of her dogs or to relocate her dogs to a kennel setting outside of her home.

Thurwatcher appealed the county’s decision, which came before the county’s Law Enforcement & Courts Committee on April 10.

Montcalm County Animal Control Director Angela Hollinshead told commissioners Thurwatcher is the only person in the county requesting to grandfather this specific arrangement. She said Animal Control will still be able to conduct kennel inspections in Thurwatcher’s basement, but it will be more difficult than with most outdoor kennels.

“I do sympathize with Dawn,” Hollinshead said. “We go through this every year. Her basement is set up a little differently than most basements would be, so there is adequate ventilation. I don’t believe in grandfathering, however, if that’s something the board would like to do for this one customer … she’s the only one with this set-up, it’s not like we’re going to have 45 people in here tomorrow asking to do this same thing.

“I would like the board to make a decision today, one or way or the other, so we don’t have to do this every year,” she added.

Thurwatcher’s attorney, Jourdan Rasmussen of Lakeview, reiterated that his client’s basement is carefully set up to accommodate her 30 or so dogs.

“There’s actually nothing being done wrong here or against the spirit of the law,” Rasmussen said. “Grandfathering would apply in this situation. This kennel is Ms. Thurwatcher’s primary means of employment.”

Commissioner Patrick Q. Carr has consistently been against the county’s involvement in this issue because he doesn’t think it’s the county’s business how or where people keep dogs in their own homes. Instead of grandfathering Thurwatcher’s arrangement, Carr would rather change the county’s kennel ordnance to allow kennels to be located wherever people want as long as the animals are properly cared for.

“I don’t like this ordinance, I don’t think we should have it in place, I’ve fought against it as long as I could,” Carr said. “When we grant this one, I think there will be more who come in and request something similar.”

Commissioner Tom Porter made a motion to approve Thurwatcher’s kennel and to take a look at the county’s kennel ordinance to see if wording can be changed so this issue doesn’t surface again. However, Commissioner Tom Lindeman said he would be voting against Porter’s motion as it contained two issues and he disagreed with the latter issue.

Porter withdrew his motion and made a new motion to grant Thurwatcher a kennel license. Commissioners approved the motion, but did not take any action at looking to change the county’s current kennel ordinance.

Carr is not a voting member of the county’s Law Enforcement & Courts Committee — he simply sits in on most committee meetings — so he could not make a motion to change the county’s kennel ordinance at this time.

Anyone wishing to apply for a kennel license must still abide by the county’s kennel ordinance requirement that kennels be located outside a home, as Thurwatcher’s arrangement was grandfathered in and is specific to her kennel.

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