The fight against puppy mills and animal cruelty received a victory on May 4, 2023, when the Orange County advisory board denied a zoning exception for a proposed commercial dog breeding facility. The breeder, Juan David Valencia Santa, sought permission to build a 4,800-square-foot commercial kennel on four acres in rural east Orange to breed and sell cross-bred miniature canines. However, the proposal faced strong opposition from animal-welfare advocates, neighbors, animal-rescue groups, and shelter volunteers, who referred to it as a “puppy mega-mill.”
Critics argued that Santa’s kennel would become a puppy mill, a term used to describe inhumane, high-volume breeding operations that produce sick puppies in cruel conditions. They also claimed that Santa was trying to circumvent a county ordinance that bans retail sales of puppies, kittens, and bunnies. In October 2021, the county adopted the controversial rule, which went into effect in June 2022.
Despite Santa’s claims that his dogs were like family to him and that he wanted to run the breeding facility ethically, opponents remained unconvinced. The zoning board cited the kennel’s incompatibility with the pet-sales ban and its potential “detrimental” impact on neighboring properties as reasons for denying Santa’s request. Board chair Deborah Moskowitz even imagined the noise pollution of 100 dogs barking next door.
Although Santa has until May 19, 2023, to appeal the decision to Orange County commissioners, the odds are against him. The commissioners appointed the zoning panel members, and every member who voted for the retail sales ban of puppies is still serving on the commission. The denial of the zoning exception is a victory for animal welfare and the fight against puppy mills.
The fight against a proposed commercial dog breeding facility in Orange County continues to draw opposition from residents. Juan Valencia Santa, the breeder behind the project, wants to bring his breeding facility, Bright Pets, to the Lake Pickett area, but neighbors are concerned over what they believe is a “puppy mill.” Valencia claimed that he wanted to run the breeding facility ethically, with state-of-the-art conditions and dogs sourced from top breeders around the world. However, residents opposed the plan, fearing that it would worsen animal overpopulation issues in the county.
Opponents argued that Orange County already had a pet-overpopulation problem, and allowing a commercial dog breeding facility would set a precedent and permit the commercial aspect of breeding in the community. They also claimed that Santa’s proposed facility was too large and would lead to more dog breeding and selling, contrary to the county ordinance banning retail sales of puppies sourced from facilities like Santa’s.
The opposition to Santa’s proposal is a sign of the growing awareness of the negative impacts of puppy mills and animal cruelty. It is crucial to continue the fight against puppy mills and advocate for animal welfare, not just in Orange County but across the nation. One way to support the cause is by sending a letter to legislators supporting the ban of retail pet stores that source their puppies from puppy mills. This ban helps prevent pet stores from perpetuating the cycle of animal cruelty and encourages people to adopt from animal shelters and rescue groups instead.
The denial of the zoning exception for Santa’s proposed commercial dog breeding facility is a victory, but the battle against puppy mills and animal cruelty is far from over. Let’s continue to speak up for animal welfare and support legislation that protects our furry friends.