MILLVILLE — Activists who say a South Jersey kennel was leaving dogs out in the freezing cold now dispute a municipal inspection that found that the facility is in compliance with state cold-weather sheltering requirements.

Collene Wronko, president of Reformers-Advocates for Animal Shelter Change, said she got a call on Thursday from concerned neighbors about 21 collies outside the Van-M Collies Kennel on Cedar Street without proper shelter during last week's frigid temperatures.

Wronko said she made the two-hour drive from her home and counted 40 doghouses outside the kennel, which is located in a residential neighborhood. None of the houses were elevated or had a windbreak door flap, which protects the dog from wind, according to Wronko. She said she later found out there were 70 dogs on the 5-acre property.

The Millville police animal control and humane officer inspected the property on Friday and determined that the shelters were not in compliance and issued owner Laura Van Embden a written warning of what needed to be fixed. She also was ordered to shelter the dogs properly until the kennels were fixed.

Police said a follow-up inspection 1 p.m. Monday found the shelters in compliance with proper outdoor sheltering for below 32 degrees.

Wronko said she was near the kennel later Monday afternoon and disputes the police's conclusions, saying that none of the kennels had wind guards by 5 p.m.

Van M Collies Kennel in Millville
Van-M Collies Kennel in Millville (Steve Wronko)

The state's shelter law signed in 2017 protects animals from "adverse environmental conditions," including temperatures of below 32 degrees or "other cold weather or precipitation-related environmental conditions." That can include wind, snow, rain, ice, sleet or hail. It can also be applied when the temperature rises above 90 degrees.

The law states that the animals cannot be exposed to these types of conditions for more than 30 minutes "unless the animal has continuous access to proper shelter." The law also requires that when an evacuation order is issued, people responsible for the animals "shall make every effort to evacuate with the animal, and shall not leave the animal indoors or outdoors while unattended and tethered."

The law carries a $100 fine for a first offense, and a $200 fine for a second offense.

Wronko believes that politics are at play in how the situation with the kennel is being handled because Van Embden’s son Nathan is an attorney for the city and daughter Lauren Van Embden is a municipal court judge in Millville.

Laura Van Emdben told New Jersey 101.5 she has operated the kennel since the 1950s and thinks that the protesters simply don't like breeders and have "misled" people about her kennel.

"Whatever their thoughts are they're not going to run me up a tree. I'm glad it's come to an end," Van Emdben said.

Van Emdben said that collies love to be outdoors even in the snow. She said that the wind guards have been installed but some of the collies like to chew on them.

"I raise wonderful dogs. They're absolutely beautiful and healthy. I sell them all over the world. People come here from Europe to buy a dog because it's better than what they can find elsewhere. I'm very pleased with my dogs," Van Emdben said.

Wronko's group plans other protests and plans to attend a Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday to discuss the matter.

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