Board reverses ruling on sanctuary

Appeals panel says animal control should decide on exotic pets


October 30, 2003|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Howard County's animal control, not the Board of Appeals, should decide when a private wildlife shelter in Woodstock must remove its exotic pets the board has ruled.

The five appointed board members voted unanimously Tuesday to remove language from an order that gave Frisky's Wildlife and Primate Sanctuary four years to find new homes for its 28 monkeys.

Since 1993, shelter manager Colleen Layton has cared for discarded pets and injured wildlife at Frisky's on Old Frederick Road.

A year ago, the board ruled that the shelter could continue to rehabilitate the wildlife but that exotic animals, ostensibly the monkeys, had to go.

Workers from the Department of Planning and Zoning first inspected Frisky's in 2000, acting on an anonymous tip that the shelter was operating without proper approval from the county.

On Tuesday, Layton listened to board members deliberate with Peggy Stover-Catha, a Frisky's director.

But Layton has not decided whether to appeal the decision.

"We'll assess all our options," Stover-Catha said after the meeting.

The board's new stance supports neighbors concerned about their safety.

Board members "did what they had to do. What's disappointing is that it took a year to get there," said David A. Carney, an attorney who represents several Woodstock residents.

"They had no right to extend" a time limit to the shelter's owner, Carney said.

Animal control's administrator, Deborah Baracco, is gathering more information about the board's decision to determine when the animals will have to be removed, said Cpl. Lisa Myers, a police spokeswoman.

Frisky's has 30 days to appeal after the board issues its written decision. The shelter can continue to operate during that process.

Pat Patterson, chairman of the Board of Appeals, explained the rationale for removing the time limit during Tuesday's deliberations.

"If it's illegal, how can we allow a four-year phase-in?" he said. Removing the time limit "puts the burden back on animal control."

"I think we're leaving ourselves wide open for a bad decision" if the time limit is included, he said.

Board members were doubtful during last year's hearing about shelter management by someone other than Layton. Albert J. Hayes said Tuesday that originally he "was swayed by what I heard -- the faith of Ms. Layton's supporters in her facility."

But "we can't attach conditions that go to the individual, Hayes said. "Our conditions have to go with the land."

"We overstepped our bounds," he said.

"At that point, we all thought that four years were not unreasonable," board member James Pfefferkorn said.

But Pfefferkorn agreed that the panel did not have authority over animals.

Stover-Catha said the board makes exceptions differently in its cases.

"The rules of Howard County may not be clear or clearly applied," she said.

Layton defended her shelter after the meeting.

"It's an answer to a problem, not a cause," she said. "There's sanctuaries all over the U.S."

Steve Ritterspach drew attention to the shelter in 2000 when Anne Arundel County confiscated his male macaque monkey Jamie and placed the animal at Frisky's after the primate bit a woman on the lip in Glen Burnie.

Now a Dundalk resident, Ritterspach said he has retained an attorney and is considering suing Anne Arundel for placing his monkey in an illegal facility.

"Now my biggest concern is getting Jamie back," he said.

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