DURHAMÂ â€” Neighbors areÂ unhappy aboutÂ a former Wallingford dog training facility that opened in April near their homes.
Town zoning regulations allow the facility,Â IntegrityÂ K9 Training, which specializes in training canines to compete in a sport called â€śIPO.â€ť
The owners are up to date on licenses andÂ are members of professional organizations.
However,Â town officialsÂ who approved theÂ plan should have considered the nature of the facility, saidÂ Meghan Glomb, of 58 Dunn Hill Road.
â€śItâ€™s not an appropriate place for that business,â€ť she said.Â
IntegrityÂ operated in a Wallingford warehouse for about a year and moved to Durham in late March.
Glomb said one day in April, she heard incessant barking behind her house that continued all month.Â
IntegrityÂ had moved to 361 Wallingford Road, a property bordering her house.
â€śThatâ€™s how we were alerted that there was something going on,â€ťÂ Glomb said.Â
Glomb said she complained to town Animal Control Officer April Leiler.Â
Leiler said Monday she visited property in AprilÂ andÂ found several dogs, whichÂ surprised her.
â€śI knew that property had sold, but I wasnâ€™t aware that it had been sold to someone with lots and lots of dogs,â€ť she said.
Integrity ownerÂ Samantha Smith and trainer David Caruso live on the 7.65-acre property, which boasts a raised ranch house, pool, gazebo and outbuilding theyâ€™ve turned into an indoor training area.Â
Nearly an acre of land is lined with 6-foot-high chain link fencing for outdoor training. Ten outdoor kennels hold one dog each.
Smith said MondayÂ she has about 20 dogs on the property currently, both German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois.Â
â€śDo they bark? Absolutely,â€ť Smith said. â€śDo they bark for extended periods of time? NoÂ they donâ€™tâ€¦Â We have to teach them to bark for the sport aspect.â€ť
IPO stands for Internationale PrĂĽfungsordnung, German for international trial rules.Â
Three phases of the sportÂ are obedience, tracking and protection.
â€śI donâ€™t want my dogs barking for a long period of time,â€ť Smith said. â€śThey donâ€™t need to drain their energy that way and I donâ€™t want them learning bad behaviors.â€ť
Sport and serviceÂ
IPO hasÂ local, regional, national and worldwide trials.Â Dogs of Smithâ€™s have competed nationally.
â€śThese dogs are loyal, theyâ€™re determined,â€ť Smith said. â€śIt is pretty incredible to watch what they do.â€ť
Obedience trials, Caruso said, are 80 percent of IPO testing, including heeling, retrieving and jumping.
They plan to use the town open spaces and hay fields to practice tracking.
â€śCome trial time, thatâ€™s what you usually track on,â€ťÂ Caruso said.Â â€śNine out of 10 times, itâ€™s hay fields.â€ť
Protection includes defense and attacking components.Â
â€śThat bite component is there, but obviously itâ€™s not willy-nillyâ€ť Smith said. Dog trainers protect themselves with bite sleeves made of jute.Â
Smith said sheâ€™sÂ beginning a breeding program.
â€śWe keep most of the puppies in order to train themâ€ť for sport, police or service dog work, Smith said.
â€śItâ€™s not just about making money or fulfilling even just a passion,â€ť Smith said. â€śItâ€™s also about trying to give back in different ways.â€ť
Caruso said a dog they trained now works for a police department in a New Mexico town along the border.
â€śWhen you actually see them work, it feels good,â€ť Caruso said.
Number of dogs
Smith is a member of International Association of Canine Professionals. She and Caruso are members of United Schutzhund Clubs of America and American Working Malinois Association.
All dogs wear remote collars, Smith said, andÂ signs around property warnÂ trespassers.Â
Integrity is not an open boarding facility, Smith said, and the only dogs that stay are there for training.
When not training, the dogs rotate through theÂ kennels, swim in the pool, playÂ (though not so much together because unlike pets, they arenâ€™t spayed or neutered)Â and go out on walks.Â
â€śTheyâ€™re pretty easy-going overall, which is nice,â€ť Smith said.
Glomb said she objects to the location of Smithâ€™s businessÂ because it isÂ aÂ commercial use in a residential area.
However, town zoning regulations do permit agricultural use on the property.Â
Geoff Colegrove, town zoning enforcement officer, saidÂ agriculture, by nature, is a business and therefore inherently commercial.
Even so, itâ€™s not a traditionalÂ agricultural use, Glomb said.
â€śThat business, we do not feel fits intoÂ agriculture at all,â€ť she said, adding she feels the use falls under home occupation zoning regulations, which requireÂ neighbor notification.Â
Smithâ€™sÂ site plan review application, dated March 27, states she applied for aÂ “commercial kennel/trainingÂ facility.”
BecauseÂ kennels are a permitted,Â Colegrove said, the application did not go before the Planning and Zoning Commission, and there was no public hearing or published notice.Â
A legal opinion prepared byÂ townÂ zoning attorney StevenÂ Byrne, which wasÂ requested by the town and issued Thursday, states â€śsome level of dog trainingâ€ť is an allowed use on the property.
â€śWhether or not the scope and intensity of trainingâ€¦Â exceeds the training commonly associated with commercial kennels requires further investigation,â€ťÂ Byrne wrote.
Noise and safety
Under Durham town code, barking dogs are aÂ public nuisance, 24 hours a day.
â€śThe noise is obnoxious,â€ť Glomb said.Â â€śIt got better after the neighbors got louder and more complaints went to the town.â€ť
The next step would be to figure out a way toÂ empirically measure noise coming from the property, Colegrove said.Â
Glomb said sheâ€™d be satisfied if dogs can stay quiet and in the fenced-in area, or if the facility moved.Â
â€śMy kids havenâ€™t been out in the yard once to play since this all started,â€ť Glomb said.
While demonstrating obedience training with Inferno, a 3-year-old female Belgian Malinois,Â the dog jumped onto Smith, hugging her front legs around Smithâ€™s waist.Â
â€śThis is how it usually ends up,â€ť Smith said, petting the dogâ€™s back.Â â€śSheâ€™s one of the dogs that can do no wrong.â€ť