Board approves amendment on sanctuaries

Woodstock wildlife haven's future remains uncertain

Howard County

August 05, 2004|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Planning Board approved a zoning change last night to specifically allow wildlife sanctuaries - but the future of the only one operating in Howard, Frisky's Wildlife and Primate Sanctuary in Woodstock, remained uncertain.

Meeting for a second time on the issue, the board made several changes in fine-tuning the sanctuary amendment, including requiring a minimum of 5 acres for a sanctuary to be allowed. Frisky's has slightly more than 3 acres, and the board discussed but did not decide whether to make an exception for it to remain in operation.

The change in zoning regulations was proposed by Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, a western county Republican, to allow sanctuaries - which do not fall under any other zoning category - to apply for a variance to operate.

Kittleman's proposal was intended to help Frisky's, which has cared for discarded pets and injured wildlife at its Old Frederick Road location since 1993.

Frisky's has been the subject of hearings and debates for several years as neighbors have fought to close an operation they see as dangerous, particularly because it houses more than two dozen monkeys.

In fall 2002, the county Board of Appeals ruled that the sanctuary could continue to rehabilitate wildlife, but had to get rid of exotic animals, namely the monkeys.

A year later, the board changed its ruling to say that the sanctuary no longer faced a deadline to remove the primates, leaving the decision of when and if to remove them up to Howard County's animal control office.

Operators of Frisky's and neighbors who are opposed to the business both appealed the decision.

The zoning amendment now must be approved by the County Council. If passed, it would allow animal sanctuaries that meet several criteria, including proper certification from state and federal agencies, a nonprofit status and appropriate setbacks.

Kittleman and his staff believe a sanctuary can be a positive part of the community, and want to make it possible to have such places in the county, including Frisky's, said Bill Thies, Kittleman's assistant.

Specific issues of what animals are kept and how they are kept should fall to county, state and federal agencies, he said.

But David A. Carney, an attorney for neighbors of Frisky's, argued that the board should set limits on sanctuaries, including a ban on primates. He said that federal regulations are intended to protect the animals.

Inspectors "don't go to see whether neighbors, residents and others are protected from those animals," he said.

"We just want to see this come to an end and be right and for the people of Howard County to make their desires known," said Peggy Stover-Catha, a member of Frisky's board of directors. "Most of the people in Howard County do not have a problem with this place. There was confusion in the zoning practices, and we want to get that part clarified."

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