January 8, 2008
The Albemarle County Zoning Board says a woman fostering rescued dogs is in violation of the law and has to send the animals packing.
The county says it's not what Ellen Hawkins is doing that is the problem, but the extent of which she's doing and where.
According to county officials when they showed up to inspect her home, they found 27 dogs and 7 puppies on her one acre lot.
“It's a residential neighborhood, not an animal rescue neighborhood,” said one neighbor.
“I have been not able to use my patio or deck for the last two years on the count of the noise,” said neighbor Phyllis Jackson.
One by one neighbors of Ellen Hawkins and her rescued dogs take the stand before the Albemarle County Board of Zoning complaining of the persistent noise and potent smell of her furry friends.
Each one said they commend her for wanting to help the animals, but it's at their expense and until the dogs are gone they can't enjoy what they've worked hard for.
“There's an expectation of a quality of life when you move into a residential neighborhood and this definitely affects that residential use of your property,” another neighbor said.
Hawkins lives on Huntington Road which is just off East Rio. She is a volunteer for animal rescue and often fosters over 15 dogs on top of the 8 she calls pets.
“My keeping of rescued dogs at my residence is a subordinate accessory use of my property. It conforms entirely to my zoning ordinance, because it is not the main purpose of my living there,” Hawkins told the board.
In October she received a notice of violation from the county after the neighbors called complaining.
She appealed and Tuesday the Board of Zoning listened.
“Obviously the keeping of dogs and cats and other animals is normal and customarily accessory to a house and we're not trying to say that that's not permitted, it clearly is permitted,” said Bill Fritz, Chief of Current Development.
The board ruled she can keep the 8 dogs she calls pets, must get rid of all the rescued animals.
Hawkins can appeal this latest ruling to the Circuit Court. If she chooses to do so, she can keep the dogs through that appeal process.