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Norwich Bulletin - 7/12/2009

Barking Dogs

Biting dogs are dangerous, but barking dogs are a nuisance that has spread throughout the country due to the irresponsibility of both owner and local government.
The towns and cities do not pass or enforce any anti-barking regulations that actually work. In fact, it is the victim who must suffer through the barking and usually must take the matter to court in a civil action, because the towns pretty much do nothing.

Anyone can own a dog - that’s a sad fact. You can walk into any pet store and buy any puppy. There is no test, no mandatory education about how to train or socialize a dog, and there is no training on how to properly care for a dog. All you have to do is pay your licensing fee every year and you are good to go.

City and Town Government don’t care if you know how to take care of your canine – there is not even a pamphlet to give you some type of code of conduct explaining your responsibilities as a dog owner. You don’t even have to know about the local dog laws, much less obey them. Just pay your fees yearly and you pretty much won’t hear from the town’s dog warden as long as you don’t have a dog that bites.

Every action has a consequence and his consequence is at the expense of the dogs. 85% of the eight million dogs that pass through our shelters in one year, are there because of behavioral problems caused by uneducated dog owners. So millions of people are acquiring dogs and they are not equipped to properly care or train them – so the result is death because our shelters are over-crowded and under-financed.

While every person must own up to their contribution in the death of these dogs, so to our government must own up to their contribution. By considering dogs a commodity to bring money into the town or city, and not following through with making people own up to their responsibilities, the dogs are the ones getting a raw deal, as are the neighbors who end up being bitten, listening to constant chronic barking and even losing their cats to dogs who are allowed to roam, despite local leash laws.

How do you rein in an irresponsible or malicious dog owner? Well, three things are necessary and pretty impossible to obtain. You need to first have a good law. One that actually works. Many barking dog laws mandate that anywhere from three to ten neighbors have to be willing to make written complaints and jump through all kinds of hoops to even get the local dog warden or law enforcement official to even listen.

And if you are lucky enough to get a decent “Nuisance” law into place, you have to have an official willing to enforce the law. Many times the dog warden will come knocking at a door, talk to the person about the dog, letting him know which neighbors complained about him and checking for rabies certificates and licenses. The most that happens is a fine for not having the dogs licensed or current on their rabies and a verbal warning. Of course, that makes the dog owner angry at his neighbors and the barking abuse will usually escalate rather than get better.

So let’s assume that you have a good law in your town and a great dog warden ready and willing to write tickets and citations. That doesn’t mean anything unless the local court has a judge who is willing to crack down. And while you are waiting for the court to hear the case (which takes months or even a year), the dog continues to bark. And Bark. And Bark.

The officials won’t usually come back and write another citation because it was already done and you are waiting for your day in court. So finally that day comes and your neighbor is found “guilty” and receives a whopping $50 fine and thirty days in which to quiet the dog. $50! And everyone goes home and the dog continues to bark. By that time, the neighbors are so tired and discouraged, most of them just give up.

But there are a few people who will go to the next step and there is only one choice left. Since those in authority refuse to take any responsibility, it becomes the chore of the victim to take that responsibility over, despite not having any authority. How do they do that? By proceeding in civil court.

The courts are full of tired neighbors (and I mean that quite literally) bringing suit against their neighbors and their barking dogs. At best this will allow you a money settlement (if you are very lucky), but it will not prevent you from continuing to be a victim.

It is easy to bring a barking dog under control (bark collars work fast and are trouble free for the owner) but thanks to our legislators, we have laws that instead of controlling barking, make it pretty much a done deal that there will be a barking crisis.

But if you are of a mind to change your own dog’s behavior or have a neighbor that you think might actually be willing to listen and learn about controlling his barking dog, then please send him to www.barkingdogs.net, section two.

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