Friday, August 15, 2008

Barking Dogs & Erasing Riggy's Shadow

Well, my friends, if you've got a neighbor who has a pooch that makes too much noise for you that problem is about to be solved. The Costa Mesa City Council, at it's meeting on Tuesday, August 19th, will have the second reading and probable adoption of a new "Barking Dog" ordinance - one
with real teeth in it. (Sorry, I just couldn't resist that one).

This subject has been under evaluation for months, ever since several residents complained about dogs in their neighborhoods that barked incessantly. At the time the County of Orange had just implemented an ordinance to address this kind of situation, so the council decided t
o ride it out for awhile, to see how the county ordinance worked out. I guess they are now satisfied that it works.

The new ordinance, which is modeled after the Orange County ordinance, defines what constitutes a "Barking Dog" and includes a fine schedule that is sure to get your attention. Depending on which alternative fine schedule the council chooses Tuesday evening, it will be possible for a police officer or animal control officer to levy a fine of $250 for the first offense and includes a sliding schedule up to over $400 for the sixth and subsequent offenses! Or, they might choose the alternative presentation, which starts at $100 for the first offense and jumps in two steps to $500! Yikes!! I guess the City Council has found a way to balance the budget after all!

The new ordinance adds language to Title 3 of the Costa Mesa Municipal Code by adding Section 3-8 to Chapter 1. The first part is reproduced here for your reading pleasure. I highlighted one section that may give you some apprehension, even if the remainder doesn't.

“Barking dog” means a dog that barks, bays, cries, howls or makes any noise audible beyond the boundaries of the property on which the dog is situated for an extended period of time to the disturbance of any person at any time of day or night, regardless of whether the dog is physically situated in or upon private property. Such extended period of time shall consist of incessant barking, baying, crying, howling or making of any noise for thirty (30) minutes or more in any twenty-four-hour period, or intermittent barking, baying, crying, howling or making any noise for sixty (60) minutes or more during any twenty-four-hour period. A dog shall not be deemed a "barking dog" for purposes of this article if, at any time the dog is barking, a person is trespassing or threatening to trespass upon private property in or upon which the dog is situated, or when the dog is being teased or provoked.

The remainder of the proposed ordinance can be viewed on the agenda for Tuesday's council meeting. Just click HERE, then select the agenda item for 8/19/08

Tuesday is your last chance to address this issue. If you have a noisy pooch, or if you have a grumpy neighbor who thinks you have a noisy pooch, perhaps you should let the council know how you feel on this issue. If you're concerned about this new ordinance you can communicate with the city council at
the following email address:


Before I forget, I recently received a telephone call from Jim Righeimer, wanting to set me straight on the "bankruptcy" issue.

In a blog entry recently I said, when referring to Righeimer, "Despite his recent pontifications about fiscal frugality, rumors of bankruptcy in his past continue to shadow him". That statement, as far as it went, was true... rumors of bankruptcy do continue to
shadow him.

Riggy clarified the issue, though, and following our conversation I dug deeper into this subject. It seems Riggy, like many developers in the disastrous 1980s, got into big financial trouble. However, instead of simply filing for bankruptcy and letting others carry the debt, Riggy sold off properties, including his home, to pay off every debt. It took him nine years. He feels the rumors were generated by folks unhappy with his sponsorship of Proposition 226, which would have given union members the right to decide whether they wanted any part of their dues to go to political activities.

I asked Riggy point blank if he had EVER filed for bankruptcy. His answer was an emphatic NO! Unless some skeleton comes flying out of a closet to re-kindle this issue, I'm satisfied with his explanation and will no longer mention it.

This doesn't mean I agree with his ideas for balancing our budget, though. Tapping the emergency reserve, as he has recently suggested, is a truly bad idea and I'm disappointed that he and Allan Mansoor even consider doing it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the heads up. Our property backs up to Cal-trans. I am concerned about other animals (possums, squirrels and mice) coming into our backyard. This happened to us last night at 1:30. Our dogs were barking at a baby possum which they had cornered by the pool. We hope to think our fine neigbors would be understanding? I think we are very responsible dog owners and are always concerned with our neigbors peace and wellbeing.

8/16/2008 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger Flo Martin said...

Supposedly, the current CM city council majority--Bever, Mansoor and Leece--espouse less government in our private lives and lower government spending.

Who needs more laws on the books for barking dogs? Or fines commensurate with the length and quality of the barking? Who's going to prove the pooches barked for 30 minutes non-stop? Will neighbors have to tape the offensive barking for evidence?This is ridiculous. What's wrong with just talking with the neighbor and dealing with the problem one-on-one?

8/17/2008 02:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ms. Martin,

The problem is that some neighbors don't care about what their neighbors think. We have a small dog next door (next lot, separated by a fence and driveway) that is left out 24/7 and barks constantly. We have left notes and knocked on the door - no answer, nothing done about the dog. One neighbor screamed at the top of her lungs "shut that dog up" at 2:30 am, and nothing was done.

The police and animal control must have effective tools. I agree that problems should be resolved among neighbors, but that doesn't work when your neighbors could care less.

When you are keep up all night by a barking dog, it is not an academic question anymore, it is a dead serious quality of life issue that MUST be addressed.

8/18/2008 02:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can attest for frank's dogs, I know them personally... and they are VERY well cared for :). The fact is that MOST excessively loud dogs are that way because of neglect and poor care. I am not talking about the random barking at a "visitor" in the yard, but Rob's comment is a prime example. Many owners simply don't care enough to address a barking or distressed dog. With the fines should come some form of education as well.

8/19/2008 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

matt s,

I couldn't agree more - our neighbor's dog isn't barking like it is out of happiness. It is unquestionable that it is neglected. Animal control should be given the tools necessary to deal with these extreme situations.

8/19/2008 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not sure why we need a new law. This one seems to address the problem quite nicely:

Sec. 13-283. Loud, unnecessary noise.
It shall be unlawful for any person to willfully make or continue, or cause to be made or continued, any loud, unnecessary and unusual noise which disturbs the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or which causes discomfort or annoyance to any reasonable person of normal sensitiveness residing in the area, regardless of whether the noise level exceeds the standards specified in section 13-280, Exterior noise standards, and section 13-281, Interior noise standards. The standard which may be considered in determining whether a violation of the provisions of this section exists may include, but not be limited to, the following:
(a) The level of noise;
(b) Whether the nature of the noise is usual or unusual;
(c) Whether the origin of the noise is natural or unnatural;
(d) The level and intensity of the background noise, if any;
(e) The proximity of the noise to residential sleeping facilities;
(f) The nature and zoning of the area within which the noise emanates;
(g) The density of the inhabitation of the area within which the noise emanates;
(h) The time of the day and night the noise occurs;
(i) The duration of the noise;
(j) Whether the noise is recurrent, intermittent or constant;
(k) Whether the noise is produced by a commercial or noncommercial activity; and
(l) The density of the inhabitation of the area affected.
(Ord. No. 97-11, § 2, 5-5-97)

8/20/2008 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Bruce, as always, you point is well-made. One must assume that a barking dog didn't sufficiently fit the definition of "person" as used in the section you provided. If you watched the council meeting last night you know that we are now saddled with yet another law with a draconian fine schedule. Yes sir, those "improvers" are going to "improve" our city to the point where it will require a conditional use permit to belch!

8/20/2008 09:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bruce and Geoff,

With 748 plus calls about barking dogs resulting in 10 formal complaints, the problem is not academic or strictly "Improver" in nature. In fact, unless you deal with a constantly barking dog next door, I'd suggest being a little less critical of the council's efforts on this one.

When someone takes the time to call the police on a noisy dog, that usually means the problem is serious, not intermittent. The onus is on THE DOG'S OWNER to keep their pet quiet, not the neighbors and police. C'mon, guys - that is a total no-brainer. Obviously, the existing noise laws aren't sufficient - 748:10 is a lousy ratio.

I agree that the fines are way too lhigh, and will write the council to let them know what I think.

However, like the graffitti ordinance, which has truly draconian provisions that have yet to be actually imposed, the dog ordinance should have the teeth to deal with truly problem situations.

8/20/2008 10:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob and Geoff,

Water under the bridge I guess, but the noise ordinance is broad enough that the city could certainly take action because of a barking dog. The fact that they did in only 10 cases shows me that there may be some over sensitivity on the part of some neighbors.

As I am sure you can imagine, in the 30+ years I have lived here I have suffered my fair share of barking dogs. We have contacted the police on a couple of occasions and the problem was addressed.

I am against adding needless laws to any code, federal, state or local and frankly this one was needless.

I am no longer a dog owner as my two labs died several years ago, so it has zero impact on me personally. It is simply a case of too much government and not enough use of existing laws. Once again.

8/20/2008 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Rob, I don't think either of us were saying barking dogs are not a problem. I recall the speakers before the council almost a year ago that launched this whole issue and their stories were painful, to say the least. Clearly, Chief Shawkey and his staff feel this ordinance is necessary to give them the tool necessary to address the problem properly. I do agree with Bruce, though - one more law, one more fine schedule, one more way to pit neighbor against neighbor. As is always the case - it's going to be how the ordinance is enforced by the CMPD and the animal control folks that will make the difference.

Last night, as the discussion moved forward, it became clear that the fine schedules they were looking at were not the ones on the agenda item. It was never clear to me as a viewer, nor to those in the audience who didn't have copies of things distributed at the dinner meeting, just what kind of fine schedule we ended up with. I do know that the beginning fine was changed from $250 for the first citation to $200. Beyond that, I don't know how it progresses and what the ultimate fine can be. When that information is available - maybe Friday - I'll post it. My preference would have been a significant fine for the first actual citation. Chief Shawkey indicated that there were not many second offenses nor third, either, once a stiff first-time fine was levied.

8/20/2008 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bruce and Geoff,

I absolutely unequivocably agree that the less laws the better, and generally oppose new or even some existing laws and ordinances that govern personal behavior, such as certain code enforcement provisions.

That said - the pre-existing process for complaining about barking dogs was ludicrous. Needing another neighbor to join in the complaint? Now, with the requirement of signing under penalty of perjury when filing a complaint, and the initial warning before citation, seems like a good compromise.

We should definitely keep vigilant to make sure the law is not abused.

8/20/2008 02:28:00 PM  

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