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Wednesday May 31st

Pittsboro cat shelter Goathouse Refugee fights planned gun range

<p>Siglinda Scarpa, founder of the Goathouse Refuge, stops to pet one of her around 200 cats.</p>
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Siglinda Scarpa, founder of the Goathouse Refuge, stops to pet one of her around 200 cats.

The 200 shelter cats living at Goathouse Refuge in Pittsboro tend to crouch low to the ground and run in group panic when they hear the sound of gunshots from nearby hunters.

Now that a shooting range might be coming to a property adjacent to the refuge, the sound of gunfire could become more frequent.

“Cats have a very delicate immune system,” said Siglinda Scarpa, who founded the no-kill shelter in 2007 on 16 acres of farmland. “When they get stressed, they get sick.”

Scarpa said she spoke to the new owner of an adjacent plot of land, Mark Atkeson, who mentioned his plans to build a private shooting range for his friends.

Atkeson could not be reached for comment after multiple attempts.

“I understand that everyone’s free to do what they want on their property,” Scarpa said. “But they shouldn’t bother the people next door or do things that are disruptive to their life and work.”

Chatham County Commissioner Michael Cross said Atkeson would have the right to build a range on his private property.

“If he’s starting a business, that’s a whole different story,” Cross said. “The only thing I’ve heard is that it’s going to be for private shooting.”

Scarpa and the volunteers at Goathouse Refuge started a petition asking the commissioners to prevent the construction of the range because of noise issues and the potential for water contamination from stray bullets.

The petition had 2,423 signatures as of Tuesday.

“We spoke with one lawyer who said there’s probably nothing we can do legally,” Scarpa said. “What we can do is fight it with petitions, with our presence there. They have to keep in consideration that we’ve been here for many years.”

Lindsay Ray, Chatham County’s clerk to the board, said the county’s noise ordinance only applies to zoned properties. Scarpa’s property and the surrounding plots are not zoned, so noise is not regulated there.

George Lawrence Jr., who owns property next to Goathouse Refuge, said the shelter might have a case if stray bullets come onto the property from the range, but the sound of shooting is not unusual in the area.

“There’s always shooting here — I’ve lived here for 25 years,” he said.

Curtis Garriock, who owns a plot of land next to the land where the range could be located, expressed concern that he wouldn’t want to raise his family near a gun range.

“It would keep me from building on the land,” he said.

Deanna Rowan, a former volunteer for Goathouse Refuge, said the range would cause problems for the animals that already come from traumatic backgrounds.

“If I were (Scarpa), I’d be up in arms,” Rowan said. “It’s a real dilemma. I’m sure the people opening the range feel like it’s their right to do so, but (Scarpa has) been there a long time. She’s done a lot for the community.”

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