DEAR JOAN: I am writing about a barking dog problem, and it’s not what you think.
We live in a very quiet neighborhood and are retired, so we are home a lot. Our next-door neighbors have two small dogs that usually spend all day in their backyard. Surprisingly, they tend to be very quiet for a couple of “ankle-biters.” They only bark briefly when somebody walks past, or in response to a dog on the other side of their fence, or for other normal reasons.
About once a day they go bonkers when their owner comes home (they know the sound of his car), but that only lasts for a minute at most, and the way they carry on actually makes me laugh.
Somebody nearby has complained about these dogs to the county and our neighbor has now gotten two letters notifying him to keep them quieter. He is doing his best to improve the situation, but cannot confer with whoever complained because they took the coward’s way out and never attempted to meet with him directly.
How can our neighbor defend himself and his dogs? We are the residents most affected by the barking, and we do not mind. There are plenty of other dogs in the area that bark more than these two, and for no particular reason.
Can the county do anything to take away his dogs? Shouldn’t the county survey all the neighbors to determine the seriousness of the problem, rather than rely on one person’s anonymous complaint? It is kind of surprising to me that I am taking the side of the dog owner, but I am steaming mad that somebody is being a cowardly jerk.
DEAR BARBARA: The county is obligated to notify the owner when someone makes a complaint about excessive noise, but for a full investigation to be launched, two or more people, living in different households within 300 feet of the barking dog, must make complaints.
The law defines excessive noise as being “so continuously or incessantly as to unreasonably disturb the peace or quiet.”
Whether the county is officially investigating or not, it would behoove your neighbor to be proactive. If it is determined that the dogs are a nuisance, they may be taken away and euthanized. The owner also can face fines and fees. Plus, keeping dogs as quiet as possible is the good neighbor and responsible pet owner thing to do.
I’d recommend leaving the dogs indoors, where their barking would be muted. If that’s not possible, there are many anti-barking devices on the market.
First Alert recently sent me its Bark Genie automatic ultrasonic bark deterrent unit to try with my yappy dog. The device emits a high-pitched sound when it detects barking.
It stopped my dog in mid-bark, but it also made him not want to be inside the house when it was turned on. He moped around like I’d taken his favorite toy away from him. I’m now experimenting with the company’s handheld device.
The devices can be placed outdoors, and considering what’s at stake, trying them would be a good idea. There also are anti-bark collars that emit ultrasonic sounds or release a spray of citronella. Personally, I wouldn’t use a shock collar.
You also can write a letter of support, outlining your experience. Your testimony could be important if nuisance charges are filed.
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