Humane society objects to new quiet hours
A group of Wadena County Humane Society volunteers urged the city council last week to reconsider the quiet hours it imposed when it revised the city's kennel ordinance in May.
In addition to several uncontroversial changes, the new rules prohibit kennel operators from allowing noise that can be heard from adjacent properties between the hours of 4 p.m. and 9 a.m. A special city committee proposed the limit after neighbors of the Wadena animal shelter - located along Highway 10 on the northeast side of town - complained about persistent barking.
Several council members have pointed out that dogs can still go outside during the quiet hours; they just can't make noise.
That's an unrealistic burden for the 18-year-old local animal shelter, which houses up to 23 dogs at a time, volunteers and other Wadena pet owners told the council during passionate testimony June 10.
"I don't know how you can censor a dog who has come in and has not been trained," said Patt Knudtson, whose voice cracked with emotion. "You can't keep it from barking. It's going to bark. "I think what you're doing is wrong, very wrong, and it hurts me as a member of this city to see an ordinance like that passed."
WCHS volunteer Erin Bishop said keeping the dogs inside for 17 hours straight would hurt their health and make them less adoptable.
"The ordinance you passed is animal cruelty," Bishop said.
The revisions took effect June 12, when the ordinance was published in the Pioneer Journal.
"I don't really see a whole lot of change," Jody Grossinger, who rents a house just behind the shelter, said Monday. "The dogs still bark."
The humane society board is working on the situation, said volunteer shelter manager Carolyn Hartman. "The city has told us they will give us time as long as they see some progress."
Although the group would love to see the council repeal the new hours, the humane society is taking steps to comply, President Susan Stoddard said. The first step: Installing new fencing that will limit the dogs' exposure to noise-provoking stimuli and possibly redirect the noise away from the neighbors.
For now, Stoddard said, the animal shelter will not change its hours.
"We'll see how the fence works and we'll go from there," she said.
The fence is expected to cost several thousand dollars.
A committee last week authorized the humane society to use the remaining balance of a subsidized city loan it received for other upgrades - nearly $1,200 - for fencing.
To raise additional money, the humane society will hold a golf scramble July 11 at Whitetail Run.
Snap Fitness will also host a fundraiser on July 17, said manager Nikki Jahnke, a humane society volunteer. The event is not affiliated with the organization, she said, but 100 percent of donations will go to the humane society.
"We think that by coming up with a proactive plan, maybe the city council would reconsider the times and adjust them," Jahnke said. "I don't want to get into an argument, I just want to try and come up with a solution that's better for the town."
Councilwoman Gillette Kempf, a member of the kennel ordinance committee, said she's open to taking another look at the quiet hours once the humane society makes a good faith effort to "accommodate the ordinance the best they can."
The humane society is also looking to fundraise for an $80,000 to $125,000 addition to the west side of the building. To join the group or make a donation, head to http://wadena.com/AnimalShelter.html.
The quiet hours aren't the only controversial part of the kennel ordinance.
Concerned that it will force people to get rid of beloved family pets, several people complained to the council June 10 about the two-dog limit in Wadena's residential areas.
"I think you have to start looking at dog and cat licensing and forget about the numbers," Hartman said.
The rule has been on the books since the 1980s, but largely unenforced. The council decided against changing the limit when they revised the ordinance. Police Chief Naomi Plautz said she will enforce it, though only if residents alert the police department to violations or officers notice them. Residents with three or more dogs will receive a warning first and if they don't comply, they're subject to an administrative fine.
Jahnke said she fears the limit will lead to overcrowding at the animal shelter.
At the end of the June 10 meeting, Mayor Wayne Wolden said he's been hearing a lot from constituents about the quiet hours and the two-dog limit.
"We've drawn a line in the sand ... Is there room for adjustments?" he asked the council. "I think we need to think about it. I'm open to something."
If the council revisited everything it does, it would never get anything done, Councilman Toby Pierce, a kennel ordinance committee member, said in an interview.
"Let's take some time," he said. "In all fairness, you've got to give it some time and see if it does work."