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Fact Finders: The way to handle barking dog concerns

“Prosecution for a barking dog should always be a last resort.”
Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 9:48 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A dog that barks, howls, or whines all the time can drive just about anyone crazy.

So, one of our viewers wants to know; Can a neighbor be cited for, “a dog that barks CONSTANTLY in the late afternoon until about 1:30 am?” The answer is -- YES.

Here’s the process in Springfield. If the dog is barking during the day, contact Animal Control. If the dog is barking late at night, contact the police department. Late at night is generally considered after 11 pm.

Keep in mind, animal control does not enforce noise complaints about dogs. But they will show up. They’ll make sure the dog has shelter, water, and food. Then, they’ll talk to the owner. They could issue a written warning.

Keep in mind, the city’s official position is that prosecution for a barking dog should always be a last resort.

We asked the prosecutor’s office for a response to a series of questions.

Here’s what we heard back:

When does a barking dog issue rise to the level of a citation? There is no simple answer. There are a variety of factors that determine if a barking dog constitutes a violation of the city code. Some of the factors that are considered are the time of day, the duration of the noise, whether the officer observed the violation, if there is any recorded evidence, whether there are additional witnesses, and if the noise is observable inside the complaining party’s home. After considering all those factors we try to consider whether a reasonable person would find the duration and volume of the noise disturbing.

What’s the typical citation? The primary ordinance the city relies on for animal noise violations is City Code 78-113 (a)(1). That section of the code describes what constitutes a violation; The following acts, among others, are declared to be loud and disturbing noises and constitute violations of this division, but this enumeration shall not be deemed to be exclusive: Animal and fowl noises. The keeping of any animal, bird, or fowl which, by causing frequent or long-continued noise, shall disturb the comfort or repose of any person in the vicinity. Click here to read the ordinance.

What fine or penalty can a loud dog owner get? The penalty is set out in City Code 1-7. Under 1-7, the minimum fine is $0 and the maximum fine is $1000. We are not aware of a person having any jail time imposed for an animal noise violation and we don’t seek jail time. However, under the code, there does exist the possibility for jail time. Our primary goal is to reach a resolution where the violation will not occur in the future. Our goal is to encourage everyone to be a good neighbor. Read about potential penalties here.

What can residents living next to loud dogs do to address the problem? We recommend people try to talk to their neighbors about the issue. It is not unusual for the court to have an expectation for neighbors to try to get along. In addition, it can take a long time for a case to work its way through the court system. Sometimes talking to the person can resolve the issue faster than waiting for the citation to be resolved. That being said we understand that talking about the issue will not always resolve the problem and in some cases, people might not feel comfortable talking to the responsible party. If a person is having ongoing issues with a neighbor’s barking dog, they should contact the police department and request the police conduct an investigation. We recommend the complaining party be prepared to testify in court, try to record the noise violation, provide the police department with the name of other witnesses, provide the police with the name of the suspect if possible, and we recommend that if this is an ongoing issue the person keep a journal with the date, time, and description of the violation. In the end, the Judge is the person that will determine if there is a violation, and the city must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant committed the violation.

Sometimes, the owner is gone when the barking happens and doesn’t even know it’s an issue.

“Always let people know, hey, if your dog is getting bored if it has like the run in the backyard or whatever, make sure it’s got plenty of toys, plenty of things to play with anything like that, that’s going to keep them going. If they’re in the house, a lot of times it’s going to be a training issue,” says Senior Animal Control Officer Heather Kellough.

Now, if you’re the owner of a dog that barks constantly, you can buy training collars starting at about $10. Some collars issue a whistle the dog does not like. Others issue a burst of citronella.

If you have something you want us to investigate, email us at factfinders@ky3.com.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com

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