'They are my life' - champion dog breeder may have to lose five dogs after planning battle is refused
PUBLISHED: 16:44 11 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:01 13 February 2020
An award-winning breeder in West Norfolk is "heartbroken" she might have to find new homes for five of her dogs after a planning battle was lost to keep breeding kennels at her home.
Stefanie Millington, who has lived in Lakes End for nine years, has two German Shepherds, seven miniature long hair dachshunds, seven miniature pinschers and a Cockapoo.
The mother-of-one describes the prize pooches as her "kids" - but she could have to part with five dogs to reduce the number from 16 to 11.
When licencing regulations changed in July last year, Stefanie was contacted by Kings Lynn and West Norfolk Council to submit a retrospective planning application to allow her to continue to breed from home.
However, a backlash from nearby residents and an objection from Upwell Parish Council over noise and parking led to permission being refused at a meeting last Monday (February 3).
Because Stefanie has a four-star breeding licence under The Kennel Club she is still allowed to keep 11 dogs on site under the council's regulations.
"We cannot go down to 11 dogs because they are our kids and my life," she said.
"How could we choose to let go of five of them? Ask anyone who is an animal lover and you will know that they cannot just 'ditch' one of their dogs.
"All of them have been born and raised here - this is their home.
"When they have puppies in our front room I sleep downstairs with them for two weeks."
Stefanie, whose breeder business is known as Cunannun, is a regular winner at Crufts and has several Kennel Club awards dotted around her kitchen. The dogs are mainly kept inside during the day but also have heated kennels and space to exercise in the garden.
But village residents argued that the business was "wholly inappropriate and incompatible within a residential area set in a quiet rural location".
Kate Bennett, clerk of Upwell Parish Council, said: "Parking at this location is still a dangerous situation.
"No amount of fencing of any type will stop the noise and disturbance of barking dogs from a breeding business such as this proposal being heard by the occupied dwellings neighbouring the business."
Stefanie, who lives with her husband Steve, said that she was prepared to have three acoustic fences put in place to mitigate noise.
The couple claim that they were also targeted by people beeping horns outside of their house in the early hours to aggravate the dogs when they first submitted their application last summer.
"It is the emotional impact of all this that is causing me to constantly worry about losing the dogs," she said.
"One complaint was from a resident 300 metres away, but we are in the middle of nowhere and mainly surrounded by fields.
"I do no dog training here as I actually take the dogs to three different training clubs.
"I had four litters of puppies last year when I could have had 10 under my breeding licence.
"I just can't believe that we are in this situation when for nine years there hasn't been a problem here."
No objections were raised by highways officers.