Noise in the Animal Shelter Environment: Building Design and the Effects of Daily Noise Exposure

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Courtesy of Troy Acoustics Corporation

Sound levels in animal shelters regularly exceed 100 dB. Noise is a physical stressor on animals that can lead to behavioral, physiological and anatomical responses. There are currently no policies regulating noise levels in dog kennels. The objective of this study was to evaluate the noise levels dogs are exposed to in an animal shelter on a continuous basis and to determine the need, if any. for noise regulations. Noise levels at a newly constructed animal shelter were measured using a noise dosimeter in all indoor dog-holding areas. These holding areas included large dog adoptable. large dog stray, small dog adoptable, small dog stray, and front intake. The noise level was highest in the large adoptable area. Sound from the large adoptable area affected some of the noise measurements for the other rooms. Peak noise levels regularly exceeded the measuring capability7 of the dosimeter (118.9 dBA). Often, in new facility design, there is little attention paid to noise abatement, despite the evidence that noise causes physical and psychological stress on dogs. To meet their behavioral and physical needs, kennel design should also address optimal sound range.

Noise in an animal shelter has previously been discussed (Key. 2000: Milligan. Sales.& Khimykh. 1993; Sales. Hubrecht. Peyvandi. Milligan. & Shield. 1997). Sales et al. repotted that sound levels regularly exceeded 100 dB. Sound is measured in decibels (dB) and the scale is logarithmic, meaning that 90 dB is 10 times the intensity of 80 dB and is 100 times the intensity of 70 dB. A noise level over 70 dB(A) is considered 'loud' (Baker. 1998). To put this into context. 95 dB(A) is comparable to a subway train. 110 dB(A) is a jackhammer. and 120 dB(A) is a propeller aircraft: any sound in the 90 to 120 dB(A) range is considered to be in the critical zone and can be felt as well as heard (Key. 2000). No single method or process exists for measuring occupational noise. A noise dosimeter is preferred for measuring noise levels when the noise levels are varying or intermittent and when they contain impulsive components such as barking. One consideration when using a noise dosimeter is that the microphone is within the hearing zone of individuals being monitored.

It has long been documented that audible sound has profound physiological and psychological effects on nonhunian animals and disturbs the healthy equilibrium of the body (Wei. 1969). Noise has been found to be a physical stressor on animals that can lead to behavioral, physiological, and anatomical responses. Noise-induced Cortisol increases can cause immunosuppression, insulin resistance, cardiovascular diseases, catabolism (molecular decomposition), and intestinal problems (Spreng. 2000). The hearing of animals differs from that of humans: dogs (Canis familiaris) have much better hearing and can hear sounds up to four times quieter than can the human ear. Recent research shows that noise in dog kennels may be a welfare concern for the animals (Sales et al. 1997). but currently no policies regulate noise levels in dog kennels.

The objective of this observational case study was to evaluate the levels of noise to which dogs are exposed on a continuous basis and to determine the need for noise regulations. Regulations may emphasize The necessity to control levels through building design and materials instead of trying to reduce the noise produced by the animals. The facility where this study was conducted was designed and built in the last 7 years. However, as is often typical, there were no obvious preventative measures in the design to reduce noise and. in fact, design may have had the opposite effect due to animal arrangement, the use of concrete block, and exposed metal rooting.

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