County Decides Against Barking Dog Law

SNOW HILL – Neighbors
suffering from chronically barking dogs still have no legal recourse after the
County Commissioners rejected new regulations that would fine owners of noisy
canines.

The public hearing
attracted several speakers who have been impacted by barking dogs, but have no
remedy under the law except a civil suit.

Bishopville resident
Jack Davis testified in favor of the proposed law, which would make the owners
of excessively barking dogs subject to a fine up to $500. Since Davis moved
into the community, a dozen dogs have been added to his neighborhood.

“They all bark. They all
bark all the time,” said Davis.

Speaking to the owners
has produced no lasting improvement, according to Davis.

“I love dogs,” Davis
said. “I do not let my dogs or pets infringe on anyone else.”

Beverly Rae Lynch has
endured a kennel of dogs barking near her home for 14 years, she told the
commissioners Tuesday. At first, she called the Sheriff’s Office, but law
enforcement had no ordinance to enforce and could do nothing.

“This is an ongoing
thing. Dogs die and they get a new dog,” Lynch said.

Commissioner Linda
Busick said she had spoken on the telephone to Lynch about the matter and
during the conversation heard the dogs barking over the phone line.

Lynch attempted to speak
to the owners with the multiple dogs once, 14 years ago, she said, but the
owners hung up on her and blocked her calls.

Bud Himes was neighbor
to a persistently barking dog, which barked day and night, for years. 

“We need this law in
place. Life was miserable in our household,” said Himes.

“They bark through the
night. They bark most of the time,” said Constance Hughes of neighborhood dogs.
“I wish I was exaggerating.

Hughes described the
chronic barking as “slow torture,” and described herself as a captive audience.

“It is the repetitive
nature and length of these episodes, not the loudness of the barking, that
makes you feel tortured,” Hughes said.

Animal Control Chief
Susan Rantz testified against the law.

“I don’t understand how
a fine is going to stop the dogs from barking,” said Rantz. “As long as we
allow people to chain and tether their dogs outside in Worcester County, we
can’t stop the barking.”

Rantz said she felt the
barking dog law was the wrong avenue to prevent the problem and that the county
should look at a chained dog law instead.

Barking dogs are a civil
matter and neighbors can take each other to court, Rantz said.

When Animal Control gets
calls about barking dogs, they can go out and check the health and welfare of
the animal, but by the time they get there, the dog has stopped sounding off,
according to Rantz.

“There’s a reason the
dog barks. I think it’s because they’re on chains,” Rantz said.

Commission President Bud
Church said he spearheaded the proposed law because he received numerous
complaints about barking dogs in the Cape Isle of Wight area in his district.

When Church spoke to
Animal Control, he said, he was told authority over barking dogs was needed
before anything could be done. Now, Church said, after Rantz’s testimony, he
was confused.

Church, who said he has
two dogs, noted that the county has changed over the last few decades from a
rural county to one with many subdivisions, which crowd people together.

“The complexity of the
dog problem has grown with the neighborhoods,” Church said.

While the county does
not receive a lot of barking dog complaints, citizens need to be good
neighbors, he said.

“We do have to make
people responsible for a dog that barks hours on end,” Church said.

A civil suit would be
burdensome to people affected by barking dogs, Church said, and would really
upset a neighborhood.

“I don’t think that’s
the way you want to go…the dog ordinance will make good neighbors,” Church
said.

Commissioner Judy Boggs
said she is philosophically opposed to government controlling people’s lives.
She felt that some kind of middle ground needed to be found, such as mediation,
which has been found successful in other types of legal wrangles.

The county received
several letters and a few petitions in support of the barking dogs law.

The county needs legal
teeth to handle this problem, Church said.

Currently, all anyone
can do is file a lawsuit in civil court over a common law nuisance or attempt
to prove a criminal charge of disturbing the peace, attorney Sonny Bloxom said.

Three commissioners,
Church, Busick and Commissioner Bobby Cowger, voted for the barking dogs law,
while Commissioners Boggs, Shockley, Louise Gulyas and Jim Purnell were
opposed.

“It fails, after all
these folks came here today,” Church said.

“I hope somebody with a
kennel moves in next to your house,” Davis said.

“It’s a shame,” Hughes
said.

Himes erupted in barking
as he left the room, over the commissioners’ attempts to move on to the next
subject.

“Jackasses,” Davis said,
as he walked out.

 

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