By MEL ROTHENBURGER/
NEWS — There’s nothing like a barking dog to cause tension between neighbours. But what happens when there are 50 of them?
The Angel’s Animal Rescue shelter at Canford near Merritt has been at odds with about a dozen nearby residents for years, and neither side has a lot of confidence a new regional noise bylaw will do much to resolve the issue.
Judanna Dawn-Caros, who runs the shelter, calls the neighbours “negative.” The neighbours say she’s unco-operative.
A delegation of residents appeared before a Thompson-Nicola Regional District board meeting a few weeks ago to ask that something be done.
“I thought they were receptive to our plight at least,” Norma Cannon, who spoke for the delegation, said today.
“We were very impressed with the questions they asked.”
At a follow-up workshop, the board directed staff to write a noise bylaw for consideration. It will be several weeks before it’s ready.
Meanwhile, tension in the neighbourhood continues. “This last week has been really bad,” Cannon said.
Cannon, who owns a Golden Retriever, said she understands the important work Angel’s Rescue does for dogs in need. “My issue is I can’t sleep. My issue is not what she (Dawn-Caros) is doing.”
However, Dawn-Caros sees it differently. “They’re a very negative bunch of people,” she said. “They’re not interested in what I have to say. It’s a losing battle.”
She said the shelter is on 27 acres separated from the concerned residents by a gravel road, a river and 74 acres of agricultural land.
“It’s not like we’re in a busy community.”
Dawn-Caros said the dogs bark mostly when someone comes up the driveway to visit. “I’m not going to say there isn’t any noise. If you have neighbours there are going to be certain noises that go along with it. I’m not going to let them bark all day or all night long.”
There are currently 15 rescue dogs at the shelter. The most has been 53, she said.
“We have every legal right to do what we do,” said Dawn-Caros, pointing out dog kennels are a permitted use for the land on which Angel’s Rescue is located.
Rachelle Vogt, who lives in Merritt but has several friends in Canford, said the dogs can be heard a mile away. “It is unbearable. I don’t know what else they can do.
“It’s affecting their lives daily. A lot of these people are seriously sleep deprived.”
Dawn-Caros questioned suggestions she should put up sound barriers.
“What kind of sound barrier? I don’t know of a sound barrier that exists that can just stop all noise. Tell me about it and let me know.”
She pointed out there was no noise coming from the dogs during a phone conversation, but when The Armchair Mayor was interviewing Cannon a short time later, Cannon took her own phone outside and several dogs could be heard through the phone barking.
“Let me just say, it’s hard living here,” Cannon said.
One suggestion during the TNRD board discussion was that the district try to mediate an agreement, but there’s disagreement on who’s tried talking to who.
Cannon said if the TNRD stepped in to mediate, it might help but an attempt several years ago to get everybody in a room together failed to get off the ground.
“Do I think mediation would work? It makes sense to me to have a controlled conversation,” said Cannon, a former labour mediator.
Dawn-Caros said she’s reached out several times, including taking a survey door-to-door in an effort to understand concerns. She said that effort was rebuffed.
“They refused to meet with us,” she said. “For three years I did everything I could to talk to these people and to be nice to these people.”
What about mediation?
“We’re open to everything.”
The Angel’s Rescue owner doesn’t believe a noise bylaw will help the situation but could cause a lot of headaches for the TNRD because it will have to start enforcing noise complaints all over the region.
“I don’t think it’s going to be something positive.”
Cannon agreed enforcement is a question mark. “How are they going to manage that?” she said, but added, “I think at least there’ll be an instrument there.”
Cannon said the solution is up to the TNRD. “In my view it’s the regional district’s problem. It’s their problem to fix.”
Regina Sadilkova, director of development services for the TNRD, said the last time bylaws officers visited Angel’s Rescue was in November. The shelter is in a valley and the noise ricochets off the mountains, she said.
“We had a map that showed where the complainants were. They weren’t right beside, they were down the valley. It could be the acoustics, or the wind, which has a large effect on how sound travels.”
She said the bylaw, which could establish times when the shelter must be quiet, should be ready during the summer.
Dawn-Caros is asking to appear before the board before the bylaw is finalized and hopes to be there at the May 8 meeting.
“I hope they’ll wait until we can present our case.”