TC Architects - News

RESOLVING THE BARKING PROBLEM: PART 1

Incessant barking is a common problem for veterinary hospitals, kennels and animal shelters, so common that many facility owners and managers take it as an occupational given.  But it is not merely a nuisance.  Prolonged exposure to barking affects the health of the animals as well as employees and volunteers working in those facilities.  Barking also affects the customer/client experience and the public perception of animal hospitals, kennels, and shelters in general.
 
According to research conducted by Christa L. Coppola, R. Mark Enns, and Temple Grandin[i], the noise in facilities accommodating ten or more dogs can exceed 100 decibels for hours at a time.  This is equivalent to the noise generated by a chain saw, jackhammer, or speeding train at close proximity.  Although brief exposure to the 100 decibel level does not impose a health risk, hours of exposure can.  According to the Coppola-Enns-Grandin study, “noise-induced cortisol can cause immunosuppression, insulin resistance, cardiovascular diseases, catabolism, and intestinal problems” in animals and humans alike.
 
In “Cortisol and Stress: How to Stay Healthy[ii],” Elizabeth Scott confirms that high cortisol levels impair cognitive performance, alter thyroid function, and result in hyperglycemia and bone density loss, among other adverse health effects.
 
Fortunately, the barking problem can be successfully resolved through proper facility design, alteration, and new facility management techniques. 
 
Design solutions include:
 

Sound Isolation:  Isolating large dog kennel areas from office areas, cats, and exotics by gasketing doors and adding insulation to walls and ceilings.  Although this is easier to do when constructing a new facility, existing facilities can be retrofitted to improve sound transmission performance.
           
Sound isolation works in two beneficial ways.  First, it reduces the transmission of barking noise from the problem area to other parts of the facility.  Second, it prevents the transmission of high-frequency noise generated by copiers, computers, and other office equipment to the animals.  This is often overlooked as a source of stimulation because it is above the range of human hearing.
 
Sound Reduction:  Isolation improves conditions for employees and quieter animals, but it does not solve the problem for the dogs.  Because kennel areas must have hard surfaces for durability and cleanliness, room reverberation exacerbates barking noise problems.  Acoustical panels attached to walls and ceilings are effective in reducing room reverberation by absorbing the sonic energy that contributes to reverberation effects.  Although soft, acoustical panels can be manufactured with washable surfaces that answer the sanitation problem most soft materials present. 
 
Reducing Stimuli:  Reducing sight lines between kenneled dogs and reducing sight lines to food prep areas and other work stations helps reduce barking.  Some facilities have additional isolation with full-height solid partitions between kennels and glass fronts in lieu of chain link fencing.  This higher-cost solution is effective in further reducing barking noise and it is permanent.  But even existing chain link kennels can be retrofitted with panels to reduce eye-to-eye contact between incompatible dogs. 
 
An architect with experience in animal facility design can incorporate solutions like these to make a new project or retrofit a success.
 
Next issue we will discuss effective management techniques for further reducing barking problems.
 
[i] Coppola, Christa L., R. Mark Enns, and Temple Grandin. “Noise in the Animal Shelter Environment: Building Design and the Effects of Daily Noise Exposure” Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 9:I (2006): 1-7.
 
[ii] Scott, Elizabeth. “Cortisol and Stress: How to Stay Healthy.” About.com Stress Management (http//stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/cortisol.htm)
 

  RESOLVING THE BARKING PROBLEM: PART 1