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Pooches put pound in neighbors' doghouse


Some people who live near Baltimore County’s animal shelter in Baldwin  say the sound of barking dogs is blasting into their neighborhood and dumping on their quality of life. The County Council is considering legislation that would spell out how many barks and yelps could land the pound in the doghouse.


Catia Petronelli lives across the road from the shelter, in the Kimberly Farms neighborhood. She said dogs barking in the shelter’s outside kennels is at times loud and disruptive.


“You can’t even hold a conversation actually while you’re sitting outside,” Petronelli said.


The county considered building an acoustic sound barrier but dropped that idea when the price tag came in at around $600,000. The neighbors complained to County Councilman Wade Kach. Kach said the county ignored its own test which showed the barks from the shelter were too loud and exceeded state standards.


“Because the county owns land they believe they are basically exempt from zoning laws and requirements everyone else has to follow,” Kach said.


Kach has now submitted legislation that lays out specifically how loud is too loud. Also, how much canine vocalizing, defined as barks, howls, yelps and squawks, is too much. For instance, an average of four or more vocalizations a minute over five minutes would be a violation. Kach’s legislation would force the county to do something about the noise, and specifically mentions building a sound wall as a possible solution.


“I’m sorry that I have to put in legislation to force the county to do something it should be doing,” Kach said.


The shelter has been on the same piece of land for more than 30 years. But in 2016, a new shelter opened that is twice as large as the old pound and closer to the neighborhood.


Melissa Jones, the Chief of Baltimore County’s Health and Animal Services, said the new shelter is helping her staff do its job.


“We are not just the dog pound,” Jones said.


The shelter runs spay and neuter clinics, even for animals who have a home. There are also rabies clinics and microchip clinics so animals can be easily identified. 


Jones said all animals are accepted and more than 90 percent of the cats and dogs that come in to the shelter leave on their own four paws. In 2014 that leave-the-shelter-alive rate was only around 50 percent. One reason for the improvement is the old shelter didn’t have an isolation room.


“We can quarantine animals better now,” Jones said. 


Steve Breitzka, who lives in Kimberly, said there was no problem with the old shelter. The new one, though is much closer to the neighborhood. 


“Probably 50 feet at the most,” Breitzka said.


Breitzka cites the county’s own code, which says a place that boards animals in a residential zone has to be at least 200 feet from the property line.


The county disagrees that it’s violating any of its own rules but offered no further explanation. 


There may be a fix in the works. 


Spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said the county will ask the state to pay half of the $600,000 cost of the wall, then it would pay the rest. The legislature has to agree but perhaps even in the Assembly, a dog can have its day.























John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2