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Man bites dog: Divided Supes pass canine barking law

by Marissa D'Orazio
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A dying mom awakened in the night; new parents dealing with noise pollution in addition to diaper pollution. Those were just two of the impassioned tales told in a marathon June 11 hearing that resulted in Albemarle adding dogs to the noise ordinance that used to specifically exempt man’s best friend.

Fired-up citizens spoke on both sides of the issue before the 4-2 vote in favor of the new ordinance that could cost offending owners $500 per conviction. By Supervisor Sally Thomas’s count, 11 citizens spoke for the ordinance, 11 opposed, and 8 wanted to create a task force.

“We can study things forever,” said Supervisor David Slutzky toward the end of the two-and-a-half-hour debate. He voted for the ordinance– which outlaws barking lasting 30 minutes or longer with no cessations greater than five minutes– after it was stripped of a death penalty for dogs whose owners fail to give up their animals after three convictions in a 12-month period.
Scottsville-area foxhound breeder E. Wayne Proffitt opposed the new law as foreign to rural Albemarle.

“If I move to California, I gotta expect California ways,” said Proffitt. “If I move to Rome, I gotta expect Roman ways.”

Joanne Hayden also denounced the measure. “I live in Free Union,” said an angry-sounding Hayden, “but I feel like I’m moving into the People’s Republic of Albemarle.”

“That was my lovely wife you just heard,” said Dick Hayden, who shared her concern if not her volume. “It won’t be long,” he said, “before we hear a limit to the number of dogs we can have, like babies in China.”

The County’s last response to the dilemma was the 1996 publication of a pamphlet entitled “What to do When a Dog’s Bark is Worse Than his Bite.” It can be accessed on the Albemarle Animal Control web site, and it urges frustrated neighbors to mediate, not rush into court.

But June Russell related how she tried to talk things through with a seemingly bark-enabling neighbor– even bringing cake, to no avail. Russell hailed the law as an antidote to what she sees as an increasing phenomenon of people who leave their dogs alone to bark all day while they work.

“They go away,” said Russell, “and we have to listen to the barking all day long.”

Phyllis Jackson said that she had to put up with her neighbor’s 27 dogs barking for two and a half years. In this time, she said, “I could not use my patio or deck. I had to have music on in my bedroom to get to sleep.”
Dorothea Mueller echoed that sentiment. “This is about human suffering,” she said, “not animal suffering.”

The room was divided with tension tighter than a choke-collar; and at times, packs of ordinance foes broke the “no applause” rule.

Another rule that came under fire was County Attorney Larry Davis’s decision to limit the ordinance to parcels under five acres.

Patty Worthington of the Kennel Club, commented that she lives on a lot of 2.5 acres, next to a lot of 180 acres. “I feel like I’m being penalized for not being able to afford more acreage,” she said.

“You are targeting people who can least afford it,” said Jim Morris.

Kathleen DuBovsky blasted the “seemingly random” choice of five-acre exception. DuBovsky said that her neighbor lives on 40 acres of land, but puts their dogs on the property lines.

“I usually call the police at one or two a.m. after four hours of barking. We have been told to move if we do not like it,” DuBovsky said.

In response to fears of the new ordinance creating neighborly conspiracies to press false prosecutions, Rooker said he thought the greatest impact would be deterrence, and he noted that complainants have to prove their case twice: once in convincing a magistrate there’s probable cause [See sidebar] and again before a judge in open court.

“This ordinance doesn’t create lies,” said Slutzky. “It gives recourse to the people in these situations.”
Supervisors Lindsay Dorrier and Ken Boyd voted no. Supervisors Rooker, Slutzky, Anne Mallek, and Sally Thomas approved it.

Updated 4:33pm 6/17/08

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  • fed up June 11th, 2008 | 11:44 pm

    What is with the board of supervisors? No services to the rural area at all so people have to move if they become disabled and now this. How do we recall supervisors in this county? What is the mechanism? Maybe they could do something that matters like help establish a homeless shelter? Nah, that would be worthwhile and appreciated by all taxpayers. They only care about the elite.

  • CitizenofAlbemarle June 12th, 2008 | 9:36 am

    Glad to hear some type of ordinance was passed to at least control some of the barking from negligent owners. If you attempt to control your dog barking you are not negligent so you loose nothing with this law. However to you lazy, arrogant, negligent, greedy and careless dog owners I say game over! Now its time to train you in proper dog care.

    If Hayden and Profitt want dogs, learn to quiet them! You introduced the noise!!! Keep as many dogs as you like but keep them reasonably quiet. If you can’t quiet them maybe you aren’t fit to own them or MAYBE you really don’t need so many dogs!

    Who the hell moves to a quiet rural environment to make noise?
    It is too bad the BOS allowed this law to be designed for non-rural residents and have denied any help for those who neighbor 5 acres or more.

    Perhaps one day they will revisit this and offer complete covergae for ALL residents since the strategic plan calls for “quality of life for ALL Albemarle County Residents”. Yes Slutzky, we in rural area also desire the same quality of life even though we get less services and now less protection from county laws.

  • Long Time Resident June 12th, 2008 | 12:44 pm

    Some people just slay me. There should be a law requiring real estate agents to disclose the Following: If you move to a rural area learn three things.

    1) People Shoot Guns
    2) People Burn Leaves
    3) Dogs bark

    If you don’t like it move into the city. All these people move here because they love the area and then try to to make it like the place they moved from. Who do think is going to enforce this law. I’d rather have my police slowing down speeders and watching for criminals. They are already answering more calls than they can handle.

  • CitizenofAlbemarle June 12th, 2008 | 1:03 pm

    Long Time,
    Are you saying other long time residents are not entitled to peace within their home? Where do you draw the line? 10 dogs, 20 dogs or 40 dogs? Shoot all ya want, no problem there. Hunt all ya want, no problem there. Burn leaves? I like the smell but seems like they’d best be used on the forest floor.

    I do think real estate agents should guide people away from lots greater than 5 acres though since those are now dog barking zones. Perhaps that is what the BOS had in mind?

    I believe police will not handle this problem since there are 3 animal control officers so no issue there.

    If I yelled at you everytime you and your kin left your house I know you wouldn’t mind right? If you garden you wouldnt mind me yelling non stop would you? Maybe that will help you understand the point of who has rights. My guess is you’d probably want to do some target practice. :)

  • Jim June 12th, 2008 | 4:06 pm

    Whats next? Laws for cats meowing?

  • MR X June 12th, 2008 | 4:30 pm


  • orchid June 13th, 2008 | 12:00 am

    dogs don’t only bark because they’re abused or neglected. they’re not a “call” for help. sometimes they’re just saying hi to each other. yes it’s annoying, but so’s your baby, & so’s the way your car honks every time you lock it.

    sick of hearing people’s dogs barking “all day long” while they’re at work? get a job.

  • Licensed Vet. Tech. June 13th, 2008 | 6:04 am

    If someone’s dog is barking incessantly for 30 min straight (which is what the new law is talking about)…the dog is obviously being left alone whether it is inside or outside. Dogs are social animals, and if they are isolated from their family by being tethered outside or left alone all day, some sort of reaction from the dog will occur whether it is destructive behavior or vocalizing(barking). Sometimes the barking happens in group kennel situations also, like hunting dogs. HOnestly, though, if a dog is barking constantly for a half an hour straight, or more, something is wrong, that points towards neglect and yes, the owner should be dealt with in that case. I think it’s a good law.

  • Mark Consumer June 13th, 2008 | 12:30 pm

    I’ve been waiting a long time to finally see something done to balance “Rights” with “Responsibilities” . I once heard a very wise acquaintence say that he did not mind that ohers did whatever they wanted as long as he didn’t have to see it, hear it, smell it. breath it, clean it up, pay taxes on it, repair it, etc.

    That is the response to give to those who say “It’s none of your business what I do.” That’s true if you can confine it to you, your property and your personal space; otherwise, its a public problem. Once your dog’s noise, or even your stereo headphones (or car audio) “leaks” from your personal space into someone else’s personal space, you have have made it their “business.” Those who want to be Respected need to understand and apply the Rights-Responsibilities balance in all facets of their lives.

    If you own a dog to “watch” your house its barking indicates a very serious condition in and around your home. Neighbors hearing that alarm (especially if it is continual) should call 911 to report that the neighbor’s security alarm has been activated. You may help save someone’s life and help their dog be a hero/heroine.

  • orchid June 13th, 2008 | 1:04 pm

    ah, the article did not say only dogs that bark for half an hour straight are breaking the law. the way people were commenting, it seemed like any dog barking was illegal. if that’s the case, then ok.

    /still think whoring cats should be illegal.

  • broadway joe June 13th, 2008 | 2:40 pm

    The truth is that most dogs do not bark for half an hour it just feels like it because people are such miserable human beings that even two minutes is too much. dogs bark, air conditioners run ,trucks back up, buses go by, trash trucks crush trash, and lawnmowers and weedwackers rumble.

    Get laid once in a while and you will find it just doesn’t bother you.

  • lisa June 15th, 2008 | 1:57 am

    I am all about the opinions voiced by broadway joe

    Right on Brother! :)


  • Long Time Resident June 19th, 2008 | 11:19 pm

    I’m not sure what you’re saying when you talk about yelling. A person can control their yelling, I don’t expect the same control from a dog. If a dog is barking due to neglect it should be checked on and charges filed if there is neglect. 3 animal controls officers huh? Well that’s great….if it’s before 6PM, because that’s when they go home. Barking dog calls come in around 10PM. The 3 they have are already the most over worked county employyes around. They don’t work Sundays either.

    Some people think they are the only people in the whole wide world and if they are is ever something they don’t like, it should be changed. I don’t like to hear kids cry when I’m eating out, but it happens and I get over it. Should they make it illegal for kids to cry.. Hell no! Here’s idea….walk over to your neighbor, who you should already know, and say… Could you please stop your dog from barking at night. WOW it may work instead of spending thousands of $$$$$ on meetings,law making and enforcement. Oh Hell, I’m tired of my neghbors cows mOOOing. Let’s make a law.

  • Taylor June 27th, 2008 | 3:07 pm

    To Orchid- it DOES say 30 minutes in the article? Did you read the article?

    “…the ordinance– which outlaws barking lasting 30 minutes or longer with no cessations greater than five minutes…”

  • Taylor June 27th, 2008 | 3:10 pm

    Also I forgot: some people work from home! Don’t just assume people sitting at home don’t have a job.

    I work from home one day a week and if I had a problem with dogs barking (thankfully I do not) I would take full advantage of this new law. The noise is distracting and it reflects the personality of a bad owner- someone who obviously doesn’t care enough to keep their dog in control.




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