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Laguna Beach to Cite Pet Owners Whose Dogs Bark for Over 30 Minutes

Laguna Beach to Cite Pet Owners Whose Dogs Bark for Over 30 Minutes

A dog stares into a home through a glass door in Coto De Caza, Calif., on Nov. 25, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Sophie Li

Sophie Li

8/10/2023

Updated: 8/13/2023

The Laguna Beach City Council in Orange County, California, passed an ordinance Aug. 8 regarding its enforcement on excessive dog barking and other safety-related issues for domestic animals.
The council voted unanimously to streamline sections of its municipal code to establish how long a dog’s barking would be deemed a public disturbance. The council set the limit of 30 minutes of uninterrupted barking or one hour of intermittent barking within 24 hours.
Currently, no such time limits exist. Citations for such are often based on officers’ judgments, according to Jim Beres, an administrator with the Laguna Beach Police Department.
“[Citations have been] based on how many people were complaining or willing to appear before a hearing officer to testify and provide evidence … that a dog ... is a nuisance,” said Mr. Beres, who oversees the police department’s animal control and shelter services, at the meeting. “It’s like having a speed limit with no defined speed limit.”
Such subjective enforcement might result in dog owners feeling concerned about potential unfair treatment and a more explicit code could potentially alleviate such concerns, he said.
For the past year or so, Mr. Beres and his staff have been working on developing a model to better manage the dog barking issue due to a high number of complaints.
The ordinance is based on existing standards utilized by Orange County and 13 other local cities.
Houses dot the hillside overlooking Laguna Beach, Calif., on Oct. 15, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Houses dot the hillside overlooking Laguna Beach, Calif., on Oct. 15, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

During the meeting, Mr. Beres additionally said the number of warnings and citations issued by Laguna Beach is more than that of four other Orange County cities—specifically Newport Beach, Irvine, Dana Point, and San Clemente—combined.
In 2022, the city recorded 213 complaints about bothersome dog barking out of 2,081 licensed dogs; and in 2021, 222 out of 2,553 licensed dogs, according to city officials.
Mr. Beres suggested that changing the criteria for defining nuisance barking could result in a reduction in complaints, citations, and warnings.
However, he also said that by adding a defined time frame to the ordinance, the responsibility of substantiating a dog barking violation could further burden the complaining party.
“Being told unless you can document 30 minutes of continuous or 60 minutes of intermittent barking may be a more difficult threshold to reach,” he said.
An animal behavior consultant and dog trainer, Penelope Milne, commented in July—when the issue was first brought before the council—that introducing a third party into the process could be a more effective and fair approach.
“There aren’t too many other things in the city where our evidence base is an irritated next-door neighbor without any kind of cross-check,” Ms. Milne said.
She suggested that animal control officers would be more suitable for handling such complaints, as they are a more “fair and impartial arbiter.”
The ordinance also creates a definition for a “vicious” animal, classifying it as one that inflicts severe injuries or fatalities on another person or pet, or causes substantial damage to property.
The updated regulations also include provisions that prohibit tying a dog to a bicycle, e-bike, or any moving vehicle for a supposed “walk” if it harms the animal’s or the public’s safety.
The new ordinance will go into effect in 30 days and is subject to review in six months.
“It’s a hard thing to regulate, and I think this is a good start,” said Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf at the meeting.
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Sophie Li

Sophie Li

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Sophie Li is a Southern California-based reporter covering local daily news, state policies, and breaking news for The Epoch Times. Besides writing, she is also passionate about reading, photography, and tennis.

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