Study Shows that Noise Levels Exceed Federal Levels in Shelters, Affect Adoptions

A new study published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science shows that noise levels in many animal shelters exceed federal limits. Such high noise levels could easily be found in doggie daycare facilities or any other location where large numbers of dogs congregate, said Temple Grandin, PhD, professor of Animal Science and coauthor of the paper.

“I was horrified by the noise levels in shelters and the amount of time these dogs were blasted with noise. It is a jackhammer-level of sound, not something momentary,” she added.

Although the issue has been broached by professionals in the past, there is no policy regarding noise levels, which regularly exceed 100 decibels, according to the paper.

As a conclusion, authors said, “The animals’ mental and physical states are compromised; the employees may develop hearing damage and poor states of mind in caring for the animals. Our observations indicate that visitors sometimes are so bothered by the noise that visiting time is reduced during their search for an animal to adopt.”

Grandin, who recently published the book “Animals in Translation,” has started consulting with architects on shelter designs to minimize noise. She described a new set of plans as the Ritz shelter, due to its high-end design but lamented the fact that no consideration had been given to noise. Grandin hopes that other industry members will take an interest in noise abatement, which impacts pet health as well as the well-being of shelter workers. “This is a major, major problem,” she explained.

For the study, Grandin and Crista L. Coppola, PhD, CAAB, a graduate student at the time, used a dosimeter to gauge shelter noise levels over an 84-hour period that included week days and weekends in 1999. The shelter was built with concrete walls and a metal roof. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration specifies 90 decibels as safe for workers, yet noise levels registered well over the 100 decibel mark, which is common for pet shelters, Grandin said. “It went as high up as it would go without breaking the meter,” she added. “I thought I was going to go deaf from the sound of those dogs barking.”

Noise – such as loud claps of thunder – can affect dogs’ personalities, which in turns affects adoptability, Grandin explained.

Although cost is always an issue in the development of shelters, Grandin believes that many facilities could cut down on noise levels with a few simple additions. She suggests hanging a series of sound-absorbent panels – such as cotton sheets or rug remnants – from the ceiling to reduce noise, and hopes that builders will opt for cooler board instead of concrete walls. Although the cooler board is more fragile, it will absorb noise instead of reflecting it, Grandin added. From a design perspective, pens should not face each other.

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