BANGOR, Maine — Kevin and Patti Schmersal have faced criticism from neighbors about their home-based dog breeding operation almost since the day they opened.
At their home and adjacent kennel on Pushaw Road, the Schmersals breed Alaskan malamutes. Breeding is both their passion and their livelihood. Puppies start at $1,500.
Phil and Terri Roberts, the Schmersals’ neighbors on the Pushaw Road, have been complaining for years about noise and other problems they say are associated with the kennel.
The dogs? Well, sometimes they bark.
So couldn’t the Schmersals just keep them inside? Perhaps, but that would be as many as 50 puppies and full-grown dogs.
The problem has no easy solution, but the plight of the Pushaw Road neighbors prompted city staff and councilors to begin discussing an ordinance that would govern nonboarding kennel operations.
The City Council’s government operations committee held a public hearing Tuesday to meet with interested parties and to discuss a draft ordinance created by Assistant City Solicitor Paul Nicklas.
“We don’t have a kennel ordinance; we’ve always gone by state law,” Nicklas said. “But we’ve been trying hard to create something that works for everyone and not just respond to this one example.”
Kevin Schmersal, who attended Tuesday’s meeting with his wife, said the city’s approach seems fair and reasonable, but the couple did relay some concerns.
“I think some of the [ordinance] language reflected a lack of understanding on how kennels operate,” he said. “They laid some things out that were not reasonable, but I think they needed a jumping-off point. It was a good exchange of ideas.”
Among the concerns was placing a limit on the number of dogs that could be kept at a shelter. The draft ordinance caps the number at 30, but Schmersal said that wouldn’t work for his operation.
“Thirty seems like a lot to most people, but for breeders, it’s really not that many,” he said.
Another sticking point in the ordinance was noise related to barking dogs. The draft outlines some general guidelines on noise, but Nicklas said noise is extremely subjective and tough to regulate.
Councilor Pat Blanchette, who chairs the government operations committee, agreed that residents of Bangor need to understand that noise is a part of life in the city.
Blanchette said she was glad the city was creating the ordinance, even if it did technically stem from a specific complaint. Aside from the Schmersals, Blanchette said there were as many as a dozen of these types of kennels that could be affected.
“Outside of the fact that these neighbors are probably never going to get along, when you have ordinances that affect people’s lives, you have to take a good look and see what’s reasonable,” she said.
Councilors are expected to revisit the ordinance in a couple of weeks after Nicklas and other staff members address some of the concerns that were brought up Tuesday.