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The New Role of the Police in Barking Dog Enforcement

Local government needs to focus on adopting some enforceable laws and some aggressive anti-barking enforcement policies that are not dependent upon victim complaints to drive the process forward.

It would be best to start with the adoption of a standard noise ordinance which would make it illegal for anyone to make any noise loud enough to be heard beyond their own property line. That would cover not only barking dogs but also amplified music, dirt bikes, fireworks, and any other unnecessary and obnoxious damn noise you can think of. Next, we need a police department dedicated to a policy of writing citations every time an officer encounters a violation.

If you ever watch the television show COPS, notice how often there are dogs in the background barking the entire time the police and the camera crew are on the scene. The owners never come out to see what their dogs are barking at, much less to silence them, and when they finish their business the officers simply get back in their cars and drive away.

How about if, before they left, the police took five minutes to write barking dog citations to the owners of each of the dogs. If there are three dogs barking and each owner receives a $100 ticket, that would be $300 for the city coffers, and that laudable act of enforcement would not have cost the city an extra dime. It would be a win for the city treasury and the quality of life and a wake-up call for the dog's keepers who apparently were in need of a reminder that they have obligations to both their dogs and their human neighbors.

The key to ending the scourge of frequent barking, then, is to write citations in an actively proactive way as a matter of standard operating procedure, every time a violation is observed. Parking control officers are often in an excellent position to observe barking dog violations. If they joined the regular police in writing barking citations, it would take us a long way toward solving the problem.

Barking Tickets

We can probably get the best results with the most equitable administration of justice when barking dog/noise violations are handled like parking citations. That way, the dog's owner can be cited anew for every day the problem continues. In turn, the owner can respond to the citations by simply paying the tickets or by waiting until the court dates roll around and contesting each alleged violation before a judge.

That system would minimize the possibility of fraudulent complaints against the owners of quiet dogs because officer-initiated tickets would only be written by cops who personally witnessed inappropriate barking.

Better the Police than Animal Control

We need to get over the collective notion that barking problems are caused by dogs. They are not. At the root of barking disruptions are people who are behaving either irresponsibly or maliciously. Since problem barking is caused by people behaving badly, barking enforcement is a job for the police rather than animal control.

Often times, the animal control officers working for local government are actually employees of one of the humane societies who contract their services out to the municipality. As such, animal control officers are trained to focus on protecting animals from abuse at the hands of people. However, with barking dog infractions, both the victims and the perpetrators are human, which makes it a matter for the police. Unless a barking dog needs to be removed from the property, barking complaints should not involve animal control at all. Calling animal control to straighten out a problem with a barking dog makes about as much sense as calling a mechanic to come out and deal with an automobile that is being driven recklessly.

You often hear that the police are too busy with important matters to bother with barking dogs, but anyone familiar with police operations knows that's nonsense. It is true that the police must prioritize their calls, and there are times when the cops are so overwhelmed by urgent calls that less pressing matters must take a back seat. Nonetheless, in most jurisdictions most patrol cops spend most of their time driving around bored to tears with nothing to do.

Patrol officers busy themselves during their quiet hours by pulling drivers over for broken taillights, expired tags, and other trivial concerns. They don't do that because they are obsessed with vehicular minutia. They do it because those minor infractions give them probable cause for what they really want to do anyway, which is to meet the driver, generally assess his activities, and make sure everything is on the up and up. Every cop knows that routine traffic stops for minor infractions often lead to the discovery of larger crimes.

Writing tickets for barking dogs can serve a similar function. Keeping a barking dog can be an indication of drug dealing and/or substance abuse, animal abuse, a paranoid or anti-social personality disorder, domestic abuse, or any number of other conditions of interest to law enforcement.

There had been complaints about the barking of Bane and Herra, the Presa Carnarios that killed Diane Whipple in the hallway of her upscale San Francisco apartment building. One of the apartment dwellers who shared a wall with the dog's owners, received from them a written response to his complaint about the noise. It read, in part, "A Presa's bark is preferable to the sound of a wall penetrating bullet." And their doormat was inscribed with the words, Ask not for whom the dog barks, he barks for thee, which the neighbors took to be both a taunt and a threat.

On the day that barking is declared a police matter, officers will find they have probable cause to interact with a population of people who bear watching. In the case of the Presas that killed Diane, the barking alone should have given the police all the reason they needed to call on the dog owners and assess the degree of control they had over the animals.

Go to for more information about the barking laws and barking dog enforcement

This page is part of the New System section of New Animal Control.Org