WHEAT RIDGE, Colo.â A couple dozen massive wooden stakes stand tall in a fenced in area behind Zen Doggy Den in Wheat Ridge. The earth around them dug in, with even more wood stacked in nearby corners. The plan was to build a number of fences to allow dogs to play in the back of the business, but the owner has been told thatâs against the law.
âWe got everything we could together to get this place open and it literally is everything,â said owner Julie McLean. âIf we canât do this, we have nothing left.â
McLean opened up the business on Wadsworth Boulevard last week, but a zoning issue throws a wrench at her business model.
âThey said no you canât keep the dogs outside,â McLean said.
Wheat Ridge sent McLean a letter in July that approved her business license under the condition she canât have any outdoor pens or runs, because the business is zoned as a commercial space. In Wheat Ridge, city zoning only allows kennels with outdoor runs in agricultural and industrial zoning districts, according to a city spokesperson. But McLeanâs vision is more of a backyard, and doesnât think itâs the same concept as a traditional dog run.
âThis is supervised, very structured play yard where weâre gonna have people out with them the whole time,â McLean said. âThey never said, you canât bring the dogs outside, they never said you canât walk them outside, and all of the sudden thereâs all these extra rules we had no idea about.â
The letter doesnât mention that the dogs are not allowed to go outside for a bathroom break, but McLean says sheâs been told the dogs have to go to the bathroom inside, otherwise it violates the ordinance.
âWe could be un-house breaking peopleâs dogs,â McLean said. âI just canât stomach allowing that.â
A spokesperson from the city says City Council would need to approve a code amendment to allow outdoor runs in this type of commercial or mixed use district, and the City Manager has reached out to council about seeing if they need to make an exemption, or change the rule altogether.
Meanwhile, McLean has already spent more than $20,000 on materials to build a fence and infrastructure for a backyard, but doesnât know what to do if the rules donât change in the near future.
âItâs really scary actually because we could potentially have to wait months and we have employees to pay and we have bills and rent,â McLean said.