Dog training and daycare facility can't let dogs outside, according to city code and zoning

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WHEAT RIDGE, Colo.--A married couple who just opened up their dog training facility for business in Wheat Ridge reached out to Contact7 about a zoning issue and code the city is enacting that requires them to keep the dogs inside at all times.

Zen Doggy Den co-owner Julie McLean told Contact7 that they are following the law as they build an outdoor fenced yard area for the dogs to relieve themselves or get some air while supervised.

City of Wheat Ridge spokesperson Sara Spaulding told Contact7 that the zoning and code requirements were clear. Outdoor dog pens or runs are not allowed in a commercial zone, according to the approval letter sent to the business owners.

Co-business owner and master dog trainer Julie McLean says that it's tough for dogs to be happy and healthy without outdoor spaces. She and her husband just opened their doors days ago for training, daycare and dog boarding. They were hoping to finish up their property

“We ordered over $20,000 worth of brand new bamboo fencing that was supposed to come this week and now we are at a standstill.”

But they ordered the fencing after the city of Wheat Ridge basically told them there was no point for the fence because the dogs are not supposed to be outside.

“They’re telling us we can’t have dogs in it, that we can’t have dogs outside to play or go to the bathroom,” said McLean.

“We’re modeling a home environment, so if we allow dogs to go to the bathroom inside we are completely un-training them,” said

Julie went back to her paperwork panicked and confused that she overlooked something this important. In a July 2018 letter of approval from the city of Wheat Ridge, the community development department states the facility was approved under a few conditions -- one being, as long as there are no outdoor pens or runs.

To Julie, that meant no confined, chained-in spaces holding unsupervised dogs.

“Anybody who is a trainer or works with dogs, when they think of a run or pen, they’re thinking of a very small, penned-in area,” said McLean.

“It doesn’t specify we can’t do a fenced-in yard with the dogs,” said McLean.

She told Contact7 the city tried to explain the reasoning behind the code as a noise issue.

“They were basically making guesses as to why the code was written the way that it was,” said McLean.

But on Wadsworth Blvd, in a commercially-zoned area, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to McLean. She’s still trying to reason with the city, hoping they’ll make an exception or update the code because her business can’t run successfully, she believes, while keeping dogs inside all day.

“I just can’t see myself doing anything else and I’ve literally put everything I have into this facility.”

Spaulding, with the city of Wheat Ridge, sent the following statement to Contact7:

City's zoning code only allows kennels with outdoor runs in Agricultural and industrial zoning districts. Similarly, veterinary clinics that include outdoor runs are not allowed in commercial and mixed use zoning districts. When the business owner contacted the City in the summer about the permissibility of her use, it was represented as principally an indoor dog training facility, with ancillary uses as doggie daycare and dog boarding associated with the dog training.

In July, we provided a letter to the owner noting our zoning approval of the business license for this use, and noting several times that it could not include any outdoor dog runs, which applies both to individual dog runs that might be associated with an individual kennel, as well as larger group dog runs that would be used for the same purpose, generally outdoor play and doing a dog's 'business'. We only recently became aware of their desire to have a large outdoor dog play area and have communicated that is not allowed under existing zoning.

City Council would presumably need to approve a code amendment to allow doggie daycare/kennels/veterinary clinics with outdoor runs in additional commercial, residential or mixed use districts.

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