Thursday, January 27, 2022

Carolina Dog Sports, where pups can master agility training, aims for permanent location

Agility training is a main focus of Carolina Dog Sports, which is working toward building a permanent location. (Port City Daily/Courtesy Carolina Dog Sports)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — A rezoning application is in the works to bring a dog sports facility to Carolina Beach Road. 

Carolina Dog Sports has been in operation for over a year, providing dogs and their owners with an open space for many types of training and the honing of skills for competitive sport. 

The facility has leased space on Market Street up to this point, said owner Debbie Russ, but after the landlord gave notice of a rent increase, Carolina Dog Sports is now aiming to build a permanent facility from the ground up. Russ is under contract on a vacant lot in between Belle Meade Apartments and a storage facility near Monkey Junction. 

“It’s definitely not a daycare,” Russ said. “You and your dog come for an hour, an afternoon, however long the lesson is, and then you train your dog to do whatever activity it is you like to do.”

One key focus of Carolina Dog Sports will be agility training. The proposed 17,000-square foot indoor facility will be fashioned with the tidings of canine competition seen at dog shows. (Site plans also include a 5,000-square feet retail and services building.)

“The agility is with the jumps, the A-frame, and the tunnel and the weave poles, that kind of thing,” Russ said. “It’s going to be a large, indoor area, but it’s all going to be open.”

Title-winning dog trainer Rebecca Thrift will be on the scene for training and seminars, Russ said. With her border staffy named Snatchy, and her border collies, Spanky and Score, Thrift has earned the Agility Dog Championship title from the U.S. Dog Agility Association. 

Russ also runs the nonprofit Heeling Hearts, which trains pups in preparation for their certification as therapy dogs, and offers classes that teach necessary skills for aspiring service dogs. 

(Courtesy New Hanover County)

The property Russ intends to construct the new facility on — a vacant, 2-acre lot — is currently tied up in a restrictive zoning designation that prohibits any development, according to the application packet. 

To make construction possible, there needs to be a conditional rezoning of the land. To that end, Russ has hired Cindee Wolf, a prominent local land-use consultant whose clientele includes both deep-pocketed developers and local entrepreneurs making their first foray into business ownership — both sorts of client require a guiding hand through the regulatory complexes of zoning law and design standards, especially when public hearings are involved.

DEEP DIVE: Rezonings, conditional rezonings, and special use permits, what’s the difference?

The Carolina Dog Sports rezoning will be considered at the Jan. 6 planning board meeting at the historic downtown courthouse.


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