Frisky's wins - and loses

Shelter can stay

monkeys must go by '06, panel says

`I'm totally devastated'

Neither side is pleased with board's decision

October 24, 2002|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Frisky's Wildlife and Primate Sanctuary can stay in Woodstock, but its monkeys must be out in four years, a Howard County panel has decided.

The vote - which pleased neither the longtime Frisky's manager nor the next-door neighbors opposed to the primates - occurred after 27 months of hearings to decide the fate of the private shelter, which was operating without land-use approval.

"I'm devastated, I'm totally devastated," said Colleen Layton, who runs the sanctuary from her 3.7-acre home. "Phasing us out, I could have handled, where you get no more, or `you have so many years to do something about the macaque monkeys' - but all of them?"

Layton started caring for injured wildlife on a small scale 32 years ago and moved to Old Frederick Road in Woodstock in 1993. She has about 27 monkeys and, at any one time, about several hundred ducks, goats, pigeons and other creatures.

The Howard County Board of Appeals decided, 4-1, about 11 p.m. Tuesday to require Layton to remove all exotic animals in four years. Her attorneys say the only exotic animals she has are the primates.

It is illegal to keep them in Howard County. Although Frisky's tried to trump that by getting a federal permit as an "exhibitor" of animals, the board was not swayed.

Attorney David A. Carney, representing neighbors who share a driveway with Frisky's, said four years is far too long to allow the primates to stick around. He added that he would be "shocked" if the sanctuary complies with the order because it had operated without zoning approval and erected buildings without permits.

"I thought [the decision] was a disaster," he said. "They have animals there that have been declared dangerous - the record is full of incidents of bites and scratches to people who use the facility."

David Zachary Kaufman, one of the sanctuary's two attorneys, said monkeys pose no danger to people who do not come in direct contact with them, so neighbors should have no reason to fear.

He considers the ruling a modest victory, considering that the board could have shut down the sanctuary completely and immediately, but he understands why Layton does not agree.

"The monkeys are like her children," he said. "She's faced with a choice: lose her home or lose her monkeys."

Board of Appeals member Jacqueline Scott voiced strong concerns about allowing Frisky's to continue operating on its site, but the rest of the board voted for approval.

The restriction appeared to stem mostly from board members' worries about how the sanctuary - and unpredictable exotic animals - would be managed if Layton stopped running the shelter.

"The animals don't run loose, seem to be well-contained," said board member Albert J. Hayes. "I can imagine, absent Ms. Layton's presence, some things can change."

Craig Brestrup, executive director of The Association of Sanctuaries, a Texas-based organization that accredits such facilities nationwide, said Frisky's might find this setback to be an opportunity in the long run.

Space is an issue for the Woodstock shelter, as it is for most sanctuaries, Brestrup said. A representative from his association inspected Frisky's about two years ago and found that it could be better configured.

Layton might want to use rising Howard County land values to her advantage and find a bigger place in a more rural area, Brestrup suggested.

"I'm glad at least they gave her four years. ... I have a feeling it could turn out to be the best for her and the animals."

If Frisky's does not move and needs to place the primates with other refuges, "we can certainly help," said Vernon Weir, director of the American Sanctuary Association, also based in Texas.

Weir gets calls all the time from humane societies that need to find good homes within a couple of weeks for all manner of wild animals sold on the booming exotic pet market - tigers, pythons, wolves, alligators - that were later discarded or confiscated when they became too hard to handle.

It is the underlying reason why sanctuaries are bursting at the seams, he said.

"People are buying more and more strange animals," Weir said. "You can go on the Internet and buy everything from a monkey to a giraffe to keep as a pet. ... It's an enormous problem."

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