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Twp. to investigate potential need for barking dog ordinance

by CJ Carnacchio

July 18, 2012

Based on resident complaints, Oxford Township officials are planning to investigate whether or not the municipality needs to enact an ordinance to curtail barking dogs who constitute a nuisance to others.

"Nobody really likes a dog that barks constantly," said township resident Katie Fallon, who's having an issue with a "few dogs" who "bark excessively" in her neighborhood near Clear Lake Elementary School.

Fallon told the township board she's talked to some of her neighbors who've indicated their sleep has been disturbed by these barking dogs, the number of which she's determined to be about five or six.

"No matter what time you sleep till, it's never fun to be rudely woken up by anything," she said. "I have a neighbor who has a big sign posted on their door saying, 'Day sleeper. Please do not disturb.' I have no idea how this lady or man sleeps during the day with all the barking. I've certainly been woken up at 4, 5, 6, 7 a.m. by barking dogs."

Fallon also expressed her concern over how these dogs are affecting local children who ride their bicycles by them and other passersby.

"They go by these dogs and the dogs are fenced in but they're still barking like crazy every time a little kid or an adult, anybody, goes by," she said. "Some people are scared of dogs. Even though they're fenced in, dogs can jump fences, dogs can dig."

Fallon noted she doesn't see little kids ride their bikes by anymore "because they don't want to go by that barking dog."

"I have an 80-pound Golden Retriever, so I'm not afraid of dogs, (but) I have changed my (walking) route because I don't want to walk by a big, gigantic dog barking at me," she added.

Based on her research of the subject, not only do barking dogs create stress, they actually "harm people."

"It actually does cause wear and tear and physical problems on people's bodies, whether you're aware of it or not," Fallon told the board. "It's hard to have fun when there's so much stress about how many dogs are going to bark at you on your nice, quiet 5 a.m. run."

To Fallon, barking dogs are disturbing the peace. "Oxford is a very pleasant, peaceful place," but not when "there's four or five or six dogs yapping at neighbors," she said.

Fallon's other concern was dogs who constantly bark at everyone and everything make it difficult to know when there's actually a good reason for the barking such as a thief breaking into a home or vehicle.

"How do you know if it's just a little kid riding their bike or an alarm signifying that there's something wrong?" she said.

But Fallon wasn't the only one with a barking dog problem.

Township Clerk Curtis Wright has one near his house.

"The dog is let out and the homeowners leave for six hours," he said. "It's just like a Chinese water torture. It's just constantly barking and there's nobody to control it."

Officials noted the current noise ordinance isn't really designed to cover things like barking dogs.

"It's mostly for (the noise generated by) businesses commercial and industrial," explained township Supervisor Bill Dunn.

The existing ordinance concerns the maximum noise levels as measured in decibels by a device allowed at certain times of the day with regard to specific land use classifications.

Trustee Sue Bellairs indicated she wouldn't be opposed to doing something about "the barking that's constant," but she was uncertain as to how such an ordinance would read.

"I don't know how to regulate incessant barking," she said. "I know it's very annoying, but I don't know how to go about that."

That's why she favored a suggestion by Trustee Mike Spisz to conduct an investigation of the issue and see where it goes.

As part of this investigation, Wright will collect sample dog control ordinances from other communities for the township board to discuss at its Aug. 8 meeting.