Saturday, March 17, 2018

New Dog Barking Rules in Parts of Orange County, CA: Part II ( Complaint Procedures)

by Steve Reiss ( 

In a prior post, I started describing the brand-spanking new Orange County barking laws that went into effect in October, 2017.

In this post, using information from OC Animal Care, (OCAC) I will describe the complaint process created by the new laws. 

This complaint process should not exactly make you think the county or city is going to do anything about your neighbor's "incessantly" barking dog.

Indeed, the complaint process places such burdens on the complainant, it will take me two blog posts to drag you through it. 

Complaint Procedure

barking english pointer

 The Barking Dog complaint process generally comprises multiple steps:

1. Who Could Receive a Citation?
2. Initial Complaint
3. Second Complaint
4. Citation Issuance
5. Civil Citation Administrative Hearing
6. Optional: Education or Mediation Appointments

Initial and second complaints? Don't we want to avoid the need for second complaints?


Citations can be issued to any "responsible person". This means more than just the owner.

Under the new law, a "responsible person" is defined as any one of the following:
1. A person who allows a barking dog or animal nuisance violation to exist, whether through willful action, failure to act, or failure to exercise proper control over a barking dog or animal nuisance.

2. A person whose agent, employee, or independent contractor allows a barking dog or animal nuisance violation to exist, whether through willful action, failure to act, or failure to exercise proper control over a barking dog.

3. A person who is the owner of, and a person who is a lessee or sub-lessee with the current right of possession of, real property in or upon which a barking dog or nuisance animal violation occurs. 

4. ...a minor at least 14 years of age may be a Responsible Person subject to the provisions of this subarticle.

Wow, this looks as if it covers all those neglectful landlords, rental agents, dog sitters, kennel owners, and kids with lemonade stands. Maybe this law is pretty good, it will get those lazy landlords and kids to finally stop my neighbor's dog's barking! And I don't have to worry about complaining about the actions of the 14 year old; the minor's parents or legal guardian shall be liable for and held responsible for payment of their minor child's citation fines and/or late penalties. Anyway, I don't want to bankrupt the 14 year old; I just want the county to do something about that barking dog.

Let me grab my paper and pad and write out my complaint. How the heck do I do it?


An outline of the Barking Dog or Animal Nuisance complaint process is listed below.


The complainant must first initiate a complaint in writing, under penalty of perjury, by submitting a completed Barking Dog Complaint Form to Orange County Animal Care ("OCAC"). 
Be advised, OCAC does not provide identifying information of the complainant at the first step in the process.

Once the initial complaint has been processed, an Animal Control Public Education Officer (PEO) will attempt to contact the owner or responsible person to explain the Barking Dog or Animal Nuisance complaint process and to help resolve the situation. 

"Public Education Officer?" - Does not exactly sound like someone with a muzzle and a cage is on their way.
If the owner or responsible person is not available, a courtesy notice with an attached informational packet will be left at the residence. 

The notice will give the owner or responsible person ten (10) days to resolve the situation.

OCAC makes the responsible party feel good though, saying:
The COURTESY NOTICE is NOT a citation and is only meant to advise the responsible person of the complaint and of the ten (10) day period allowed to resolve the issue. 
But, realizing there are complainants reading the website, OCAC throws them a bone, saying:
Many complaints received are resolved after the delivery of the courtesy notice and do not escalate to the issuance of a citation.
However, "many" is not "all", nor "mos"t, nor 10%...Many just means, well, I don't know what it means.

There are no fines associated with the courtesy notice. 


What happens when your neglectful dog owning neighbor isn't scared into shutting up their dog after reading the "courtesy notice" and not having to pay any fines?

If the barking still occurs after the ten (10) day period allowed for the responsible party to correct the issue, a second complaint may be submitted to OCAC by the complainant. 

It is at this point, the complainant is the one inconvenienced: 
OCAC will schedule an affidavit appointment to meet with the complainant.
If OCAC is not contacted within thirty (30) days following the ten (10) day resolution period, the complaint will expire.
In other words, the complainant must keep pushing this forward. Otherwise the "responsible party" has to do nothing.

But, if the complainant is pissed or motivated enough (or, does not have to go to work) to go through the hassle of filing a second complaint within the thirty (30) days, they are given the honor of being "required" to complete an affidavit, signed under penalty of perjury, attesting to the observed violation during the affidavit appointment in order to further their complaint to the issuance of a citation. Who is the person doing wrong?

We are then reminded again by the procedure that OCAC does not investigate or make a determination that a Barking Dog or Animal Nuisance violation has occurred.

Citations are issued after the receipt of a second complaint and are based on the sworn affidavit signed by a complainant. 

Finally! That dog is out of here? Nope!!!


Once a signed affidavit is received by OCAC, a citation may be issued. 

The first three (3) citations issued for a Barking Dog complaint are civil citations. After three (3) successful civil citations within a two (2) year period, the fourth citation issued may be a criminal citation. 

Wait a second...why the heck is that "responsible party" being allowed to be irresponsible, for 2 years? That dog is a yapping machine. Little has changed for the better...

But, at least its a citation. Things are done!

Nope, not even...

Unless the responsible person elects to roll over and pay the fine associated with the citation, the citation will be scheduled for an informal administrative hearing so that a Hearing Officer can make a decision on the outcome of the citation. The complainant is required to attend this administrative hearing. If they do not, the civil citation may be dismissed by the Hearing Officer. The responsible person is also required to attend the administrative hearing if they chose to contest the civil citation.

You mean I need to take more time off to get this dog shut up? Yep, sucka.
More than that dude. Remember, since OCAC does not investigate or make a determination that a Barking Dog violation has occurred, it is the responsibility of both parties to bring evidence or testimony to the administrative hearing. In order to be considered, copies of evidence or digital media must be submitted at the hearing. Yep, you, the complainant, need to figure out how to take that video of your neighbor's barking dog off of your phone and onto a CD-ROM.

If I finally manage to convince the Hearing Officer I am right, does that mean this yapping dog is out of there? Nope, but you knew that already.

If the civil citation is upheld, the responsible person will have 30 days to pay the civil citation fine. The same fine they had no real motivation to pay earlier.

Criminal citations issued after the fourth citation are issued for a violation of OCCO 4-1-48 (misdemeanor violation) and submitted to the OC Superior Court for processing and disposition. You can imagine the importance with which the local prosecutor is going to give this matter.

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

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