Dog owners beware: your barking pooch could land you in court – or worse – thanks to a new Pima County barking ordinance that goes into effect May 5.
Under the new ordinance just passed by the Pima County Board of Supervisors, dog barking complaints will bring stricter penalties.
The same fines of $50 to $500 per day still stand, but the complaint process is sped up and, if found guilty of two violations, owners could find themselves in justice court where judges are free to dispense punishment as they see fit.
Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
Such harsh penalties for a barking dog ranks right up there with the $250,000 fine and five years in prison promised by the federal government for the heinous crime of using a rented or personal DVD for profit.
Since my dog Phoebe’s nickname happens to be “Phoebladine the Barking Machine,” you may guess we are not in favor of this new rule.
Neither is a Tucson schnauzer and his dog pal Sadie.
“Although my human strives to keep my girl Sadie and I quiet when she’s home, we are free to do as we please when she isn’t home and now we fear that we’re going to end up costing her money one day by just being who we are and protecting our property,” the dogs’ owner writes in an e-mail.
“Everyone gets walked up and down our blocks, and Sadie is the self-appointed block crier (or more accurately barker) that passes along the call to the dogs on the next block. If it’s really juicy I join in. There are many dogs on our block, every house has at least one, so we can hear when someone’s coming and get ready for the fun. But now we fear that the dogless people walking by, or just about anyone, may find our greetings annoying enough to file a complaint that could penalize our human. Or even send her to jail.”
These fears are valid, especially in an era rife with intolerance and neighborly hate. Phoebe is nowhere near a 24-hour barker, either, but who is to say how far some folks will go to simply be malicious.
Another huge fear stemming from this ordinance is that it could promote animal cruelty.
Owners that do deserve the repercussions of such an ordinance are likely to be neglectful to begin with. Threaten them with even harsher penalties and the results could be disastrous.
A poor rescue pooch that used to frequent Brandi Fenton Dog Park actually had his vocal cords removed. The new owner said he came that way. The dog still wanted to bark, and tried to, producing a sad, raspy noise that left him wholly confused and distraught.
Taping a dog’s mouth shut with duct tape is another act of cruelty that may become an option. One man I knew did it to a dog he was watching for the weekend. He first stuck the barking dog outside in his SUV until the neighbors called the cops. He then taped the dog’s mouth shut and shoved the pooch in the closet.
Such cruelty was also the case for at least one dog that ended up in the Pima Animal Care Center. “Someone had taped her mouth shut with duct tape, shot her with an arrow and was suffering from a very serious eye infection,” a writeup on the PACC website says.
Yes, a dog that barks incessantly is a nuisance and some type of ordinance should be in place to help deter it.
But if such severe penalties are a possibility, we need a narrower definition of “incessantly” and what constitutes a violation.
Dog-barking violations are already the top complaint flooding into Pima Animal Care Center. Pushing all those violations to justice court will clog up the system even worse than it already is.
Please note, too, proceeds from the violations go to the Pima Animal Care Center. We would hope a nice yard sale or dog ice cream social fundraiser would be a better way to make some money.
Is the new ordinance too harsh?
Have you had problems with barking dogs, either owning or reporting them?
Whatever happened to talking to the neighbor about the problem rather than running to authorities?