NEWS- Ruff story: Will neighbors bark out summonses?



If your neighbor can't keep his dog quiet, it may soon cost him.


The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will meet next week to discuss a proposed ordinance allowing frustrated neighbors to request a summons for the owner of a barking dog. After 30 consecutive minutes of barking, a dog could be setting his owner up for conviction of a Class Three misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500.

John Hong is excited by the potential new law. He says his peaceful home was regularly disturbed by a neighbor's barking dog, and his efforts to solve the problem by alerting his neighbors to his concerns were unsuccessful. 

"They just didn't care," says Hong, himself a dog owner. Such a law, had it existed, would have given Hong direct recourse to solve the problem. But while Hong loves the idea of a barking-dog ordinance, others say it's rife with problems.

"The mischief that the law could create is probably worse than what we're facing now," says attorney David Heilberg, who imagines false accusations being lobbed by feuding neighbors. 

"It's one neighbor's word against another neighbor's word, and that's a real problem," Heilberg adds, not just for the accused but for courts that could become clogged with such complaints– whether true or false. "Public defenders have more important issues to defend."

Heilburg's not alone. Hank Martin, chairman of property rights group Forever Albemarle, agrees that barking dogs should be silenced– but he says dog disputes can and should be settled outside the courtroom. "I hate to see the government intervene on a barking dog," he says. 

While the county code does have a noise ordinance for most man-made sounds, barking dogs are specifically exempt. A separate provision allows animal control officers to investigate whether barking might stem from animal cruelty or neglect, but if the animals are discovered to be fed, watered, and sheltered, nuisance barking can continue. The quest for a legal muzzle last got a public hearing before the Supervisors in 1996 when a similar ordinance was defeated, and the Board directed all such cases be handled through civil suits.

Hong, who writes the "Dr. Hook" column in this newspaper, brought the issue to the attention of the Hook's "Tough Customer" columnist last winter, when he was in the middle of his dog dust-up with his neighbor ["Barking dogs: There ought to be a law," February 14].

"He would leave [the dogs] there for days at a time and they would bark 24/7," Hong says of his neighbor. Hong wasn't the only neighbor disturbed by the dogs; some even alleged that the animals were dangerous. A neighborhood petition to silence the dogs gathered 12 signatures but had no effect.

Hong called animal control several times and even went to his homeowners' association with his complaints, but the barking continued. Finally, Hong's lawyer called the offending neighbors to discuss possible civil recourse. The dogs, he says, suddenly were quieted. 

After his months-long ordeal, Hong believes the new ordinance won't only be good for neighbors; it'll be good for the dogs. 

"If the dogs bark for 30 minutes straight, you know they're being neglected," Hong says.

One provision in the proposed law gives Animal Control the right to seize a dog after three infractions in 12 months.  If that seems extreme, Hong favors the approach because, he says, an incessantly barking dog sends a message: "They need a new home." 

Heilburg, however, points out that even cherished dogs can bark– and shouldn't be removed from a loving home because of it. "I'm lucky that I don't have a dog that barks a lot," he says, "but when she does bark, it could be for half an hour straight." Barking triggers for his dog, Iris, include "people and things that rustle in the night," he says. "It's a watchdog thing, I suppose."

If passed, the new ordinance will not apply to commercial dog kennels, livestock noises, or rurally zoned tracts of five acres or more. It will also be much simpler than other Virginia counties' laws. Barking ordinances in Spotsylvania, Stafford, and Prince William Counties require time-consuming investigations, according to the "executive summary" accompanying the draft ordinance. Those counties require complaints from two separate households plus a investigative visit from an animal control officer– and a warning to the owner.

If Albemarle's ordinance proposes a simpler and more direct solution, some people have questioned making a legal issue of a situation that might better be resolved through mediation or neighborly negotiation.

"I don't know why we've lost our ability to peacefully coexist," says Martin. "We should be able to iron this out without the help of a magistrate." 

Will the loud barking coming from the yard next door translate into loud barking in the courtroom? The public hearing takes place June 11. The animal noise ordinance will be the last of four items on the agenda of the meeting that begins at 6pm in Lane Auditorium on the second floor of the County Office Building.



This overloaded noise pollution ordinance sounds like it was desigend to contain poison pills. Why the complexity and waivers???

Does noise pollution from several barking dog's sound waves become silent if land is larger than 5 acres?

Why allow negligent, lazy and inconsiderate dog owners the right to allow their dogs to bark based on parcel size?

This revision has obviously been over thought by attorneys. I agree with Martin, barking dogs should be silenced. Dogs are introduced to peaceful environments for a dog owners selfish needs. Their laziness to investigate and quiet the barking should lay with the owner. However, some owners do use their dog's barking as weapons and need to be silenced! The wallet seems to be a pressure point that most respond to.

I and my neighbors hope the supervisors approve a comprehensive dog barking ordinance which provides ALL citizen's of Albemarle the right to peace within their homes regardless of whom owns the most land. Irresponsible (and I emphasize "irresponsible") large land owners should not be exempt and allowed to create noise pollution with their dogs!

I'm tired of city attorneys constantly claiming the noise assault from an obnoxious, sociopathic, inconsiderate neighbor isn't worth the court's time and all they are is neighborhood disagreements. I say law enforcement needs to start protecting citizens by enforcing laws. I have a right to a peaceful existence on my own property and in my own home. Telling me it's not worth the court's time when my life is being controlled by dog pollution is unacceptable. If the city officials don't want to do their jobs, then quit and find people who want to uphold the laws and protect citizens from noise pollution.

Heilburg should try to imagine people who ignore their dogs barking, out of laziness or apathy, getting off their lazy asses and actually investigating their dog's alarm and quieting it. Ignoring a barking dog is like ignoring a car alarm. For the BOS to do nothing for this source of noise pollution is to continue to ignore reality. If this was 1950 I would agree that proof would be hard to obtain but Heilburg needs to realize today's technology can do a very good job obtaining proof(DVD and mp3 recorders work great!).
If Heilburg wants to unburden the courts get rid of trial lawyers!!! Imagine that!

One other thing. Thank you to The Hook for being a lightening rod for issues the other local rags are too timid or apathetic to report on. Without The Hook we would be a community of ignorant fools being led by fools.

Just want to let you folks know that this problem is ongoing nationwide...worldwide. Do a Google alert for news stories with the words 'barking dog' in it and you'll be surprised at the number of daily stories in regards to this subject. In fact, that's how I happened upon this one.

We had a the same problem in quaint Mount Dora, Florida last made international news. I, along with two other neighbors, were the victims of this noise nuisance (yes, it's barking dogs and YES it is a noise nuisance...just remove the words barking dogs and you'll get a lot more sympathy from those who oppose new legislation) from new renters. Amazingly they left five dogs outside all day during one of the hottest months of the year in a flea-infested, dirt yard. I finally approached the city council to clean up the wording of the current noise ordinance to make it easier to enforce...I was drawn and quartered by not only local and national media, but by neighbors who didn't live near the noise nuisance...labeled as a dog hater and that I should just get earplugs. You get the picture. Well, we prevailed, the ordinance was rewritten, the renters received a written warning...still didn't completely solve the problem...long story short...they moved. We believe they got tired of jumping up and down 40-50 times a day to either bring their barking dogs in or yell at them to shut-up...which created a whole new noise nuisance. Face it, they just didn't get it...good riddance. I honestly felt sorry for the's not their fault they have ignorant owners.

In fairness to our police officers in Mount Dora...they were gems throughout this situation. It was them who prompted me to ask for the ordinance to be rewritten...they told me the previous ordinance was too 'subjective'. I gave them a tool and they used it effectively.

Yes, there are cheap (less that $50.00) voice-activated recorders that will record for you all day the noise nuisances of barking dogs for proof. They are time and date stamped. Keep a log, record, give a neighbor ONE chance to get it right. Get involved and change your local ordinance to protect YOU, the victim. Folks who leave dogs outside (or inside in some instances) and those dogs bark endlessy...let's just say they should NOT be allowed to own dogs. Would you ignore a crying baby for hours. The dogs are barking because they are neglected, hot, tired, bored out of their mind. Get a clue dog owners.

Please visit to arm yourselves with intelligent information to battle careless dog owners. I have a RIGHT to enjoy peace and tranquility in my own do you. Thanks for reading and best of luck in your pursuit of silence.

Oh, I almost forgot: The US Military is deliberately spraying chemicals such as aluminum oxide and barium from tanker jets. It's a slow-kill genocide program. There's too many people on the earth, according to them. Breathe deeply, and enjoy having your mind and body slowly destroyed by design. Don't fight back. Don't take me seriously. After all, you don't deserve the truth. No, really. You don't.

What I wonder is how anyone can stand the noise of their own dogs barking endlessly... I have some dogs and one of them is a barker.. When she is seperated from me she barks. So going out is tough.. I now have a sound proof room where she is kept when I am not home.. I love them and when they go out to make potty in their own kennel they are so happy they bark like crazy for at least 5 minutes and this happens 4 or 5 times a day.. God love my neighbor they understand and know I do the best I can to keep the peace.. That is all really anyone should ask of a dog owner.. be considerate and do the best you can not to cause neighbors to hate your dogs and you... Dont let your dog bark for hours, if this is happening I have to agree maybe it would be better for you to find a new home for you dog where he wouldn't be left alone that long.. To bad we can't all just get along...

I didn't move to the country to hear my neighbor's dogs bark at all hours. She's not on a farm, but a very small piece of property, and her dogs do their business all over my lawn too. Another neighbor walks 5 big dogs up and down the road and their steaming loads fill the ditch grass on both sides-good luck stepping off the pavement for oncoming traffic (which hauls ass with no regard for pedestrians, btw).

Dog owners like these two should be more considerate of others.

.177 HMR. Problem Solved.

But wouldn't using living things as target practice be against the law? I'd hate to see things suffer and when the owner doesn't show up to feed the dog won't it go hungry? That would be cruel for the dog don't you think??? :D

If my neighbors called the police on me about my dog barking I would simply record the dog barking, figure out the decibel line at the property and play the recording 24/7 until they moved. Dogs bark. It it bothers you then whats next? Outlawing buses planes and trains?

Wouldn't it be easier to take lessons on dog care?
I'm not sure I understand the connection between planes and dogs? If your dog barked for 30 seconds and went away i'm sure no one would care or notice. Get It?

My neighbors a/c unit is humming so loud i cannot sleep. I think we should set up a task force at Charlottesville Police Department to lock these scofflaws up.

Also, I lived in an apartment where the baby cried for an hour strait every night. I think we should take them away and have their vocal chords removed.

I'm sure insomniac that if the baby is crying, someone is taking care of it so that is a short term issue. if the same baby is crying ten years from now or no on is caring for it call social services immediately or call the police because the parents are probably dead or abandended it. you obviously need to get some sleep since your senses are off. as far as the AC goes, turn yours on and you won't hear a thing you cheap bastard. ;)

McGruff: I'd be taking a bite out of you in court twinkieboy. It's sounds as though you are *exactly* the kind of d*ckhead that begets such legislation in the 1st place. So good for you! You are your own best example as to why this kind of thing is needed at all. But somehow I'm betting you're to dim to get that. LOL! Well done!

You wouldn't be taking a bite out of anybody. Everyone has the right to make whatever noise they want up to the allowable decibel level at their property line. It's called freedom of expression and it is protected by the Constituion.

For instance you would have the right to cry like a baby because you are unable to stop my dog barking recording and I would just have to tolerate it.


McGruff: You're such an idiot. It's called "quiet enjoyment". Here this might help you out.
You're gonna need a band aid for that. LOL!

hey hey,
You sound like a real tailhole. If you knew anything about current noise code, recorded amplified noise is NOT permitted. Try it and a cop will be knocking on your door with a summons.
God it's a wonder some people even know how to turn on the computer. what moron would go out of their way to create noise for no good reason???

Recorded noise is CONSTITUTIONAL so long as it is a "protest" and within decibel levels.

Suck on that awhile.

You people who can't handle a dog barking need to get laid.... that will help you sleep

Oscar(McGruff?): Even if your argument were true how do you think the decibel level is decided? The last time I read through the Constitution it didn't say word one about recorded noise either. Sounds as though you are the one in desperate need of a good laying and some higher education. Morons like you "reason" that "America is a free country so I can kick your a** if you don't get a hair cut". Truly inspiring. Oh... 1 last thing; the word your looking for is "petition" not "protest". It's a very different thing. If you think any and all forms of protest are legal perhaps you ought to have a chat with all the incarcerated tax protesters in federal prison. So good luck with that. I'll come visit you in the lockup with a video camera while you "suck on that a while" and chronicle how blatant stupidity can land you in jail.

The law spells out a decibel level at the property line along with a time schedule. This means that any citizen can play his trumpet, frank sinatra records or a recording of his dog barking within those limits all he wants.

And when you "petition" the government for "redress" it can be written, verbal, non verbal or recorded.YOU don't get to decide how I choose to make my complaints.

(by the way, I don't like barking dogs either and don't own one, but I think people who move next to the airport shouldn't complain about the noise and people who move onto a 1/8 acre lot should expect to hear dogs barking.)

CL: Quite correct. And do you find that law encoded in the Constitution or are they encoded in the municipal statutes? So now you're back pedaling from "I can do anything I want" to "I can do anything I want within reason during certain hours" which wasn't the argument to begin with. So it's disingenuous of you to try and change what's being argued in mid stream. The question you ought to be asking yourself is why the local constabulary isn't enforcing the "quiet enjoyment" statutes that are already on the books and why the city council feels the need to waste time and money encoding a new law for something that's already been decided? BTW, traditional Constitutional interpretation is conservative in its outlook not liberal. Liberal is trying to change what you're arguing in the middle of your argument. You must be one of those knee jerk yokals that arbitrarily assigns a value of "liberal" to anything they don't like. I live in a duplex with a common wall between myself and my neighbor who owns a dog. I rarely hear the dog at any time of the day or night. Why do you suppose that is? (Let me help you out) That's because my neighbor acts responsibly. That is the meat of the issue and the responsibility you want to skirt. No reasonable prudent person would expect a dog to be silent every moment of the day. However, an owner that allows a noisy dog(s), which is a nuisance that deprives you of your quiet enjoyment, is breaking the law and such conduct(or lack thereof) is actionable. If you don't like that you have my permission to petition the city/county to change the law.

"And when you "petition" the government for "redress" it can be written, verbal, non verbal or recorded.YOU don't get to decide how I choose to make my complaints."
Then please feel free to make a loud recording of your animals and blast it from your property line. I'll come see you in jail.

If the law says that recorded noise must be under 75db at the property line then how will anyone "go to jail" regardless of what they play below that legally established threshold?

I said: Everyone has the right to make whatever noise they want up to the allowable decibel level at their property line. It's called freedom of expression and it is protected by the Constituion.

cletus said: So now you're back pedaling from "I can do anything I want" to "I can do anything I want within reason during certain hours" which wasn't the argument to begin with.

splain that Lucy.....

When you finally decide on what it is you said please let me know.

back to the main issue. every resident has a right to peace when excess noise is produced from their dog regardless of acreage. conversely why is a 2 acre noise polluter guy being discriminated by acreage size?

The noise ordinance authors should be replaced! This looks like something congress would create! If I own 2 three acre lots will I be able to have excess dog barking since I own 6 acres?

Listen ill be damned if some one in my building called the cops on me if my dog barked for more then 30 mins i would find out who did it and smack the person with the fine so thank you we all have rights and besides also if you live in a building is bad enough u have lil 4 and 7 year old making noise in the hallway up to 3 am and then they like no ur dog barks too im like its too diffrent things kids runing around with out concent of parents and also knocking on doors so that the dog can bark ither parents or nieghbors need to do thier job of have Social services called on them that is all for now thank you......