Howard panel orders shelter to eliminate monkeys in 4 years

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 Frisky's longtime manager nor the next-door neighbors opposed to the primates -- came 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 circumvent 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. "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."

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