Washougal clarifies code on barking dogs

Action follows noise dispute between Humane Society, neighboring buisness

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

Published:

Updated: June 11, 2013, 6:04 PM

 

WASHOUGAL — A no-kill animal shelter in Washougal won a measure of official support Monday when the city clarified where it allows barking dogs.

The Washougal City Council voted unanimously to amend its municipal code, adding language specifying that noisy dogs are allowed at commercial kennels, animal pounds, pet stores, veterinary clinics and groomers.

The added language won’t necessarily change when Washougal issues nuisance citations for habitually barking canines. Instead, the code’s new wording spells out that entities such as the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society are permitted to house dogs, even yelping ones, without receiving a nuisance citation, as long as they’re in compliance with other zoning and code requirements.

The revisions come as a result of a noise dispute between the Humane Society and a neighboring business at the Port of Camas-Washougal, where both are located. Owners of nearby Northwest Underwater Construction have complained for months about the sound of howling dogs emanating from the shelter’s kennel.

They’ve said the kennel has violated the city’s noise ordinance because the sound of barking dogs has disrupted business. The city’s original wording of municipal code said it was illegal to harbor barking dogs that disturbed neighbors, but it didn’t specify exemptions.

“The bottom line is, these (code changes) are intended to be clarifications,” said City Administrator David Scott.

The dispute between the shelter and its industrial neighbor has quieted down, the city says. For a time, though, it appeared the two sides had reached an impasse when it came to finding middle ground.

The clash led to an April demonstration, at which more than 60 shelter supporters picketed Northwest Underwater Construction.

The city has a vested interest in quelling the conflict. Washougal owns the property on which the shelter sits. Late last year, the city spent about $8,000 to build a sound-dampening wall between the properties. The city also occasionally stations an animal control officer at the Humane Society.

Mark Fruechtel, a board member for the Humane Society, said he welcomed the city’s efforts to clarify its municipal code.

The shelter plans to place more sound-dampening shields around its property, Fruechtel said, to reduce the amount of kennel noise spilling over to the neighboring property.

“We’re still going to work on sound abatement,” Fruechtel. “We want to keep our neighbor happy, but not at the cost of shutting us down.”