Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 26
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
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Recently Detained German Shepherds Creating a Painful Earful for Residents

Matthew Hersh

Five German shepherds recently kept in custody at SAVE, the homeless animals shelter on Herrontown Road, are allegedly responsible for landing one man in the hospital with injuries related to an attack, and are now causing a headache for a neighborhood that has a long and sometimes contentious history with the shelter.

On June 6, the dogs were held responsible for attacking Trenton landscaper Giovanni Rivera at a Stuart Road West residence. Following their detention, they were taken to SAVE, where their barking reawakened a long-standing concern with nearby neighbors.

"The barking has become a perpetual problem," said Charles McVicker, a resident of Old Orchard Lane, who appeared before Township Committee at a recent public hearing. "The shelter has grown into something that it was not intended to be," he said, adding that changes in personnel have become problematic, but that the level of barking is what concerns neighbors the most.

And while by all accounts, including those from shelter officials, the dog pens at SAVE are not equipped to muffle sound, zoning in that section of the Township allows for SAVE's facility. Mr. McVicker, however, wondered if the level of noise qualifies as a "nuisance" as described in Township code. "Why do we have to suffer from this noise?" he asked.

In a separate interview, SAVE executive director Karen Azarchi said the shelter has been responsive to the neighbors' concerns and that it's sensitive to the level of noise the shepherds are causing in the area.

"These are nice dogs, but they are barky," Ms. Azarchi said, adding that the shelter was under municipal contract to hold the animals in custody while the Rivera case is pending in the courts.

"We've done many things to control and mitigate the sound coming out of this shelter, and I totally understand the neighbors' situation," she said, adding that while the animals currently being held by SAVE were not "happy dogs," they were not "vicious."

Mr. McVicker also questioned the need for the shelter to bring in dogs from as far as Ohio, to which Ms. Azarchi responded, "Our mission is to serve as many dogs as possible." Most of the dogs the shelter brings in, she said, are not as loud as the German shepherds.

In responding to Mr. McVicker's concerns, Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand recommended a meeting with SAVE, and suggested stricter enforcement if the problem continues.

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