A Tamaqua couple was granted a variance to operate a home business for the breeding and selling of dogs at their home, 330 Spruce St., at Monday night's zoning hearing board meeting.

Donna Malay explained that she and her husband would not be operating a typical kennel. They currently own three adult dogs, two females and a male, and want to be able to sell the puppies when the dogs breed. Board chair Richard Clemson asked how frequently they intend to breed the dogs, which are boxers. "Once, maybe twice a year. That's it," said Malay.

Malay's daughter, Andrea, said that her parents have had the dogs for several years. "We've never had complaints, but now we're hearing there's complaints," she said. According to Andrea Malay, the dogs had previously been allowed in the yard on a lease, and contained by a three foot high picket fence. "There are children that walk back and forth and taunt the dogs," she said, "so we put up a six foot fence so there would be no issues."

Several neighbors appeared on behalf of the Malays to support the proposed change. Lisa Mongelli, 223 Spruce St., said "I live directly across the street. The barking doesn't bother me. There's no smell or nothing."

William and Diane Jones, 328 Spruce Street, live on one side of the Malays. "I don't even really like dogs and I don't have a problem with them," said William. Diane stated that they do not hear a lot of barking from the property and when they do, Malay takes the dogs in the house immediately.

Other residents of the neighborhood were less enthusiastic about the proposal. William Swank, 404 Spruce St., said that the dogs have gotten out of the enclosure in the past. "The dogs do bark," he said. "I live approximately 100 feet up the street and I can hear them barking." Swank also questioned what would happen if all of the puppies were not sold. "What's it going to be like then," he asked.

James Kemmerer, 409 Spruce St., related a situation where the dogs had gotten out and apparently "pinned" a child to the ground. Kemmerer also said that the dogs bark at all times of the day. "You know how puppies are," he said. "They aren't trained, they don't listen. There was a lot of hollering."

Clyde Robertshaw, a member of the zoning board, said that the Malays have addressed the problem of the dogs getting out by installing the six foot fence.

Andrea Malay also stated that an incident did happen with a child; however, refuted the claim that the child had been pinned to the ground. "If she was on the ground, he may have knocked her down, but that's it. He didn't do anything to her," she said.

Diane Jones also questioned how neighbors up the block can hear the noise when they do not and they live directly next to the property. Beth Hanson, another adjacent neighbor, explained that the Jones family doesn't hear the noise because the Malay home is between the lot where the dogs are contained and their home.

Hanson, whose family members own property directly next to and behind the Malay property, objected to the proposed variance on behalf of herself and her brother, Erik Hanson, who lives at 334 Spruce St. "A dog breeding facility should not be located in a densely populated area," she said. Hanson stated that she and her husband had spent many years working in a professional capacity with veterinarians and kennels. "We love animals," she said. "We have three dogs ourselves and we can't even bring the animals on the property because of the dogs barking," she added, referring to the Malays' dogs. "We are very concerned about the potential negative effects on our property values and we want to halt any further degradation of the neighborhood." Hanson also said that she feels the facilities for the dogs are currently "minimal, at best" and added that the property also contains a pigeon roosting facility.

Later in the meeting, Erik Hanson also addressed concerns about a growing commercial operation. "I take a live and let live approach," he said. "Even if it's been an annoyance, I would not have (called the police to complain). "It's gotten to a point where this might become more than it already is. I have been reticent to say anything because I thought they were personal pets."

Andrea Malay asked why her family dogs were being targeted. "There are five dogs down the street that are out on the porch all day. There's no way they can prove that the barking is from my mom's dogs," she said.

Kathy Kunkel, a resident of Spruce Street, and the South Ward Neighborhood Elm Street Manager, spoke on behalf of several residents that did not want to attend the meeting. "Neighbors came to me with concerns," she said. "They like the Malays. They're not against the project, they just have concerns. There are some concerns that it be done right if it's going to happen."

After some deliberation, the members of the zoning hearing board offered a compromise to the Malays. At first, they requested that the Malays have no more than two adult dogs on the premises, no more than one litter of pups annually, and that they buffer the six foot fence, either with weaving or with shrubbery. Additionally, they requested that all puppies be gone from the premises by the time they are four months old.

The Malays requested that they be allowed to keep the three adult dogs they currently have and the board agreed to their request. The Malays agreed to the conditions and the variance was approved unanimously.

The board also made a motion to recommend Attorney Joseph Matika as the new zoning hearing board solicitor. That recommendation will be forwarded to Tamaqua Borough Council.