By Lyndsie Ferrell
DEL NORTE— The Rio Grande Board of County Commissioners passed a conditional use permit Wednesday, April 11 for a dog breeding facility east of Monte Vista. The topic has been one of heated debate for several weeks, bringing about controversial opinions from both sides of the story, those who are in support of the endeavor and those who strongly oppose it.
Before making their final decision, commissioners opened the floor for public comment in the final hearing on the Mullett Family dog breeding facility that applied for a conditional use permit in February. The facility would be home to approximately 10 breeding female dogs of three different types: Mountain Bernese, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Bichons. Each animal would be housed in a breeding home until adopted or shipped to participating pet stores around the country.
Commissioner Chairman Gene Glover asked those in attendance that planned on speaking to please stand and take an oath of honesty before Alvin Daniel, a neighbor of the Mullett family, volunteered to be the first to talk. Daniel spoke on behalf of the Mullett family stating that he has property that bordered along the Mulletts and that he is in favor of the facility.
“I am going to speak on behalf of the person that I know and not the facility, though I am in favor of allowing it near my home. The Mullletts have been dear friends of mine for years and we have done business together several times. They are good people, who care for their animals and have even cared for some of our sheep over the years. If a dog could choose a home, they would choose to live with the Mulletts. It is not anyone’s business how a person makes money, that’s the beauty of a free market.” said Daniel.
Next a resident of Rio Grande County took the floor, stating that she had no doubt that the Mulletts took care of their animals, but that the fact of the matter was, that having the puppies would ruin the chances of another animal from being adopted from a local shelter. “If Mr. Mullett cared for animals the way he says he does, he would use his time and land to open a shelter for dogs. It’s apparent he is in it for the money.”
Another resident spoke against the facility stating that the facility wouldn’t add to the financial status of the county as many businesses do through sales tax. “There is a total lack of understanding on the long-term effects the facility will have and they are not adding to the coffers of the county by their enterprise.”
In addition to the above comments, other points were made that the facility would continue to increase the already devastating amount of homeless dogs in the San Luis Valley and a point was brought up that there were records of a pregnant dog from the Mullett family was dropped off at the shelter in 2015. It wasn’t until Land Use Administrator Dixie Diltz spoke up stating that she had researched the incident and found that the reference the shelter had on file was actually from another family altogether.
“We have a letter here from the man that shares the same name, now living in Missouri; that was the person that dropped the animal off,” said Diltz. The letter stated that there were four Alvin Mulletts living in the San Luis Valley at that time and one of them came across a pregnant stray and not being able to care for the animal surrendered it to the Conour Animal Shelter. “It was not this man sitting here today,” stated Diltz.
County Attorney Bill Dunn was then asked to interview Mullett for the conditional use hearing and asked Mullett to take the oath of honesty prior to answering questions. Mullett stated for the record that he was state and federally certified to have and breed AKC certified animals and that he is inspected on a regular basis by both state and federal representatives. Mullett continued to state that he cleaned and sanitized all of the homes in which the dogs are kept daily and that they receive basic vaccinations on a regular basis.
Once the interview was over, Glover stated that the board would make their decision based on the laws that they have to abide by as a local government. “We will make a decision today based on what is right and lawful, not based on personal beliefs for a conditional use permit of a dog breeding facility,” said Glover.
Commissioner Suzanne Bothell made a motion to approve the conditional use permit with stipulations that the facility will house no more than 10 breeding females at any given time, continue to comply with state and federal regulations, remain licensed, be subject to inspection of a local vet and/or county commissioners at any time and that the permit would not be transferable to future owners of the property. The motion carried and was passed unanimously.