Saturday, January 31, 2009

AJC - Ordinance would get tougher on barking dogs

Gwinnett's Animal Advisory Council is encouraging pet owners to submit comments on these proposals before the draft is submitted to the county commissioners.

Ordinance would get tougher on barking dogs

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Friday, January 30, 2009

Gwinnett dog owners will be required to keep a closer ear on their best friends if a draft resolution under consideration becomes law.

The county’s citizen Animal Advisory Council is considering changes to the animal control ordinance that sets more specific limits on how long and how loud a dog can bark. It also expands the description for tethering of animals.

The biggest change is the definition of “intermittent” barking, which would be defined as any vocalization by an animal for a continuing period of 30 seconds or more on five or more occasions in any 30-minute period. The current ordinance does not define intermittent, but only states that such barking cannot go on for more than 30 minutes.
The draft proposal also defines as a nuisance any vocalization plainly audible to a person of ordinary hearing ability not located on the same property as the animal. The proposal would excuse barking “given as a warning to the presence of a person trespassing on the property” where the animal is located.

The proposal has generated some chatter on local blogs, but county officials dismiss some of the criticism as preposterous.

Karen Thomas, director of the county attorney’s office, which is helping draft the ordinance, said the advisory council is addressing the issue because of concerns raised in the community.

“It’s the whole balancing thing of if you have an animal, then you should care for the animal,” she said. “It’s to help make sure there is no mistreatment of animals.”

Penalties include up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. The proposal, in its infancy, is not scheduled to be heard by the County Commission any time soon.

Advisory council chairperson Gail LaBerge would not comment on the specifics of the ordinance, saying only that its under review.

Randy DeCarlo, a frequent critic of the animal control ordinance, said there is a more sinister motive behind the effort.

“The main crux of the problem with the animal ordinance on barking is they allow anybody to file a criminal complaint against you, without any investigation from any policing agency,” DeCarlo said. “If you own one dog, you face six months in jail. That’s absurd. You don’t put people in jail because their dogs bark.”

DeCarlo added that the ordinance may curtail adoptions at the animal shelter, resulting in more animals being put down.

“I can’t remember the last time we impounded a dog for barking,” said shelter manager Mary Lou Respess.

The new ordinance, she said, actually makes it tougher to prosecute an owner because it ultimately takes two neighbors — not one — to swear out a barking complaint.

“People don’t say ‘I’m not going to adopt a dog because it might bark,” Respess said. “It just doesn’t come up.”

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