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Shelter studies solution to barking brouhaha

The old saying says music soothes the savage beast.
But will that music serve to soothe the barking dog?
That’s one solution the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter Advisory Board will look at as a way to reduce noise from barking dogs that has reportedly disturbed the shelter’s campground neighbor.
Advisory Board chair Mike Barnett told Phillip Wright with Serenity’s Edge Campground that he has been looking at options and believes the calming music would be a good route to explore.
Barnett referred to a program called Rescue Animal MP3 Project that distributes free music-loaded MP3 players to animal shelters. The only cost to the shelter is the audio system that would be used to play the music throughout the shelter.
“Using music has been shown to help improve the demeanor of dogs in the shelters,” Barnett said. “Hopefully this will give some help to our neighbors and help the animals in our shelter.”
The board approved giving shelter manager April Jones the authority to research the program further and to order the free MP3 player.
Jones suggested using the MP3 player on one side of the shelter at first to see if it really does improve the behavior of the dogs.
Wright asked the board about the plans for the shelter, referring to what he said he thought were missing trees from the original design.
Wright showed the board the plans approved by the Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission for the shelter, and noted that larger trees were to be planted between the shelter and the campground as a noise buffer. The trees that are currently in place are smaller trees that are between four and five feet tall.
County Mayor Leon Humphrey said the trees were in place according to the plan, but that some had to be replaced because they had died after planting.
Wright also asked if the board would pursue walls or earthen berms as a sound barrier.
Humphrey said he had spoken with specialists who said the walls would not be tall enough to have an impact on the sound. He added that a berm would have to be “massive” to block sound and would require an added tree line.
He added that a sound reading in the shelter found the noise level to be 84 decibels, which was not a problem by Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.
OSHA standards allow for exposure of up to 90 decibels of sound for an 8-hour period with no harmful impact on hearing. A rating of 84 decibels would be equal to city traffic while inside the car.
Humphrey said members of the Health and Welfare Committee visited the shelter and did not find a problem with the sound levels.
“We are going to continue to work to do what we can in the most cost effective manner,” Humphrey said.
In other news, Jones told the board that damage to the shelter’s animal control truck, originally thought to be an act of vandalism, was not.
At least not vandalism by a human.
After the most recent incident where wiring was pulled from the truck and a wheel well was damaged, repair crews noticed teeth marks and animal fur around the damaged parts of the vehicle.
Jones said this was also at the time when landscaping work was being done at the shelter and chat was present on site. A look at the chat revealed several sets of dog prints.
Jones believed the damage to the truck had been caused by a roaming pack of stray dogs, known locally as the “Blackbottom Dogs.” She said she had received multiple complaints about the dogs and the shelter had been unsuccessful at trapping them for many years.
The dogs cross back and forth over Watauga River and have bothered people at local shopping centers and have attacked other animals and people. Jones noted she was almost bitten by one of the dogs when the shelter was located at its older facility.
“They are a problem but we have not had any success trapping them,” she said. “When we put the traps out, they don’t need the food so they have no reason to go in them.”
Barnett asked if it was possible those dogs were behind the noise problems that are bothering the campground. Jones said it was possible that the dogs roaming through the neighborhood were agitating the shelter dogs, leading them to bark. She added that shelter staff would continue to try to trap the dogs to eliminate the nuisance for the community.