NAPPANEE — A professional dog breeder caused a stir Thursday when he requested to add 41 animals to his kennels.
David Chupp of Nappanee met opposition to his plans at a hearing with the Elkhart County Board of Zoning Appeals where he asked for a permit to expand his animal population to 105 adult breeding dogs. While the hearing attracted some support in Chupp’s favor, many argued that he is merely operating a “puppy mill.”
“It seems like a lot of the concerns were about the care and socialization of the animals,” county zoning administrator and code enforcement manager Ann Prough said.
The board unanimously denied the request after hearing arguments against allowing Chupp to expand his business. Among those who urged the board to reject his plans was Humane Society of Elkhart County executive director Anne Reel.
Abbey Fueger of Carmel was one of more than 20 people who wrote letters to the board and elaborated on a common concern.
“Further, at a time when local county shelters are without adequate facilities, staffing and budget to care for burgeoning volumes of abandoned, forfeited and homeless animals coming into its possession on literally a daily basis, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to promote the continuation of a ‘puppy mill’ facility such as this that will surely only contribute or aggravate what has already reached crisis levels in our county,” she wrote.
Chupp, who said he has been in business for about six years, raises small-breed dogs for companionship and pet stores, according to his permit application. He was approved for a special use permit in February 2009 that allowed up to two kennels with outdoor pens and no more than 64 adult dogs. Roughly six months later, code enforcement inspected the kennels and found Chupp to be in compliance, according to county zoning department records.
Since his last application in 2009, Chupp said he has added a septic system for both of his kennels, created a large exercise area for the dogs and made improvements to reduce noise.
Chupp said he was surprised at the negative response his request received.
“I know it’s an emotional subject for people, but I don’t know why we can’t just all get along with each other,” he said Friday.
Some appealed to the board in Chupp’s favor including County Commissioner Mike Yoder and a spokesman from the Elkhart County Farm Bureau, Prough said. Several of Chupp’s satisfied customers wrote letters to the board in his support.
“Not only does David produce genetically healthy dogs, he counsels his clients and recommends certain foods, treatments and other information for the ongoing well-being of his animals after they leave his farm,” wrote Elizabeth Connors, a Wanatah resident who bought two dogs from Chupp.
Chupp said that he is a responsible breeder and defended his business.
“We have many, many happy customers, and plus, many of my puppies go to repeat buyers and referrals, and that speaks for itself,” he said. “I do a good job at taking care of my dogs. If I don’t have healthy, happy, well-socialized puppies, I won’t be in business.”