WOC Residents Seek Barking Dog Remedies

SNOW HILL – The owners of chronically barking dogs in residential areas in Worcester County may face fines or other sanctions in the future if they do not control their canine companions.

A small group of West Ocean City residents asked the Worcester County Commissioners this week to create legal measures to deal with owners who allow their dogs to bark incessantly.

The seven neighbors requesting the addition to the ordinance wrote to the commissioners this month and described their problem as a dog left outside who begins barking at 6 a.m. and sometimes continues until 2:30 a.m. The Sheriff’s Office has been called out, as has animal control, but neither agency has been able to do anything about the problem.

The neighbors would like to see a specific law that local law enforcement or other agencies could enforce, in lieu of putting citizens in the position of confronting the owner of the offending dog.

The residents asked the commissioners to add barking dogs to the county’s noise ordinance or disturbing the peace law, leaving a barking dog’s owner open to fines. They also suggested creating a separate, new law just to handle the barking issue.

Development Review and Permitting Director Ed Tudor said that adding barking dogs to the noise ordinance would not solve the problem. The county’s noise ordinance limits the decibel level of sounds and barking dogs probably do not exceed the maximum.

“It’s not necessarily the volume of the noise people find offensive, it’s the repetitive nature of a dog barking,” Tudor said.

During the discussion, Commissioner Judy Boggs asked, “How many barking dog complaints do we get?”

“In Bishopville, I have had a number of complaints,” said Commissioner Linda Busick.

Any new ordinance should be put under the animal control law, Tudor said. Staff would use existing barking dog ordinances from other jurisdictions as a model for a county law. Consequences would begin with fines and end with removal of the dog from the property, Tudor said.

“There’s tons of ordinances out there about barking dogs,” said Tudor.

Commission President Bud Church said it’s an opportune time to dig into the issue.

“There’s going to be more and more and more of these complaints coming in … I think it’s time we looked into something to try to protect the animals as well as the neighbors,” said Church.