Saturday, February 17, 2018

New Dog Barking Rules In Parts of Orange County, CA: Part I (Introduction)

by Steve Reiss ( 

Effective, October, 12, 2017, in unincorporated portions of Orange County and 14 of her bigger cities*, new dog barking regulations went into effect and will be enforced by OC Animal Care, which contracts with Orange County to enforce the county's animal laws in areas that chose not to have their own animal control agencies.

The highlights of the new regulations seem pretty straight forward, objective, and tough. It makes you think that maybe Orange County learned from all the complaints to its prior barking nuisance laws. Orange County's prior nuisance barking law was described as:
a tedious, time-consuming process that allows violators so much time and so many chances that it’s virtually unenforceable. Of the 2,000 people who inquired about the barking-dog complaint process, 1,500 filed a first-step complaint, but just 25 were ultimately sent to the district attorney.
The criteria for a Barking Dog violation under the new laws are listed below. Complete definitions can be found in Orange County Codified Ordinance (OCCO) Sec. 4-1-3. 

To be a noise violation, the noise disturbance must satisfy at least ONE of the following:




INCESSANT: Continuing without stopping, or without pause or interruption; unceasing

INTERMITTENT: Occurring in a non-continuous or non-steady fashion. Starting, stopping, and starting again. An occurrence with pauses or interruptions; occasional, sporadic

Barking Dog: a dog that barks, bays, cries, howls or makes any noise for an extended period of time to the disturbance of any person at any time of day or night, 

Does this language really mean that if you have recorded your neighbor's dog barking non-stop - I mean incessantly- for 45 straight minutes, you make a call and the Sheriff and Animal Control will come right over to make your neighbor cause the barking to stop or take your neighbor's dog away?

Image per Creative Commons/wikihow

Not in the least...

Besides the fact that there are no provisions in the new law to take a nuisance dog away, an irresponsible owner has to be really irresponsible and drag the poor complainant through several hoops before having to take responsibility for the incessant barking of the dog.

However, I guess for really, really barking dogs, maybe double-plus-barking (you had to have read 1984 to get that sarcasm), the county can sue the owner to have the dog declared a public nuisance. OCCO Sec. 4-1-48.** (see definition below)

PERSONAL DISCLAIMER: Don't get my mocking tone and sly sarcasm as anything other than contempt for a regulatory scheme. As a dog owner, I believe people are allowed to their dogs without the nagging of the government, so long as owners make sure the dogs are good citizens. And, as an attorney, I believe private property is never to be taken from citizens without due process.

But as a cynic, when I see a regulatory scheme that seems to not actually do what it is supposed to per the report of the Orange County Board of Supervisors ("Barking Dog and Animal Nuisance complaints represent a quality of life issue for the community. By amending these ordinances, OC Animal Care seeks to establish and effective and balanced mechanism for residents to resolve these issues"), or causes more issues for the noise victim rather than the noise maker, some humor is needed.
Where does this cynicism come from?

When you go to the OCAC website, which is actually quite informative, to read about the new Orange County dog barking regulations, the first thing you read, due to its larger and bold font is:
OCAC does not investigate or make a determination that a Barking Dog or Animal Nuisance violation has occurred...
This immediately makes you wonder who does determine there are nuisances and does it even matter.

The OCAC website then says: 
OCAC facilitates the Barking Dog or Animal Nuisance complaint process, acting as an intermediary between the complainant and responsible person...; and issuing a citation if necessary.  

OCAC can provide assistance mediating the circumstances of the issue or other information between both parties and can provide suggestions on how to resolve the issue with the animal in question. 

"Provide suggestions on how to resolve the issue"?  Most of the barking disputes I have read about require a little bit more than "suggestions". They require a re-education of the barking dog's owner in proper dog ownership manners and/or putting the dog in foster, until the owner adopts proper dog ownership manners.

But, let's go into this thinking positively. After all, the new regulations are supposed to make things better! So what does the complaint process say?

You will have to wait for a future post for me to describe the complaint process.

*=Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, San Juan Capistrano, City of Orange, Tustin, Anaheim, Cypress, Lake Forest, Placentia, Yorba Linda, Brea, and Villa Park.

Santa Ana has had this barking dog regulatory structure since 2007. Santa Ana does not contract out to OC Animal Care; the Santa Ana Police Department handles all calls for service regarding barking dogs.


OCCA Sec. 4-1-48. - Nuisance.
(a) No person shall keep, maintain, or permit, either willfully or through failure to exercise proper control, on any lot, parcel of land or premises under his or her control any animal: 

(1) Which by sound or cry shall disturb the peace and comfort of the inhabitants of the neighborhood, or 

(2) Which affects an entire community or neighborhood, or any considerable number of persons, although the extent of annoyance or damage may differ, or 

(3) Which interferes with any person in the reasonable and comfortable enjoyment of life or property. 

This article is for informational purposes and does not contain legal advice.

No comments:

Post a Comment