Barks vs. sirens dog Washougal

Noisy dogs at shelter bother nearby business, which put up a siren that annoys them

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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WASHOUGAL — City officials have stepped into a brewing dogs-versus-sirens noise complaint in an eastern Washougal industrial neighborhood.

The West Columbia Gorge Humane Society is a no-kill shelter next to Northwest Underwater Construction. Like most shelters, the Humane Society keeps its dogs in a backroom kennel and occasionally lets them roam outside with human companions.

But all the barking hasn't sat well with the shelter's neighbor.

So the company came up with its own novel approach to silencing the barking dogs: Make some noise of its own.

Until a week ago, that noise came from the company's "bark siren" — a device that sets off a high-pitched, ultrasonic keen to silence barking dogs. But some of the sirens were also audible to human ears, and sometimes all it took to set it off was the rumble of a nearby tractor-trailer driving along South 27th Street.

Kennel representatives say the siren, which peeks atop the fence separating the two properties, has blared noises and done more harm than good.

"The noises don't do anything except upset the animals," said Mark Fruechtel, a shelter board member.

On top of that, it annoys volunteers and employees at the shelter, which is about 100 feet from the siren.

The dogs can be annoying, too, the company's representatives have told the city. Nonetheless, Northwest Underwater Construction's siren has been silent for the past week after the company started discussions with the city.

Company representative Jesse Hutton said he's been "working closely with the chief of police" to resolve the conflict, but he declined to say whether he was happy with how the talks have progressed.

The shelter has tried to be responsive to the company's noise complaints, Fruechtel said. But he questions the company's tactics.

"Instead of getting calls," Fruechtel said, "there were these weird actions."

The city has a vested interest in reaching middle ground in the noisy conflict. It owns the property on which the Humane Society is located and acts as the shelter's landlord.

City officials say they hope to clear the air and bring peace between the two neighbors. The shelter has been in the same location for more than a decade. Northwest Underwater Construction moved into its building about five months ago.

City officials say the two parties need to reach an understanding both sides can live with.

"We're not going to go there and have the vocal cords removed from the dogs," Washougal City Administrator David Scott said, noting that the shelter hadn't received complaints in the past.

On the other hand, Scott said, the city can't be dismissive of the company's complaints.

Chief of Police Ron Mitchell met with both sides this week to hash out a middle ground between the two sides, and he said "everybody's still working to find a resolution that everyone can be happy with."

For its part, the shelter has begun looking into other alternatives. One option would involve building a sound-buffering wall between the two properties.

That will come down to money. If that project costs thousands of dollars, it likely won't happen, Fruechtel said.