The City of Oakley will be hosting a workshop during its upcoming City Council meeting on Tuesday to discuss a potential change to its city ordinance for animal noises–specifically barking dogs due to an increase of complaints.
The ordinance, found at Oakley Municipal Code Sec. 4.2.302, makes it unlawful to keep a dog that makes noise “continuously and incessantly for a period of 15 minutes within any 30-minute period, or intermittently for one-half hour or more, to the disturbance of any person.
What this does is commits an enforcement officer to at least a 30- minute stay at a location to verify that a violation is occurring, clearly a burden in these times of diminished resources. My only beef with the staff report is it does not cite how much a citation will cost someone in violation.
This should be a good discussion based on the dynamics of the Council.
I get it, barking dogs occur in nearly every neighborhood in America and at times is annoying. My neighborhood is no exception as we have a neighbors pit-bull that seems to bark, and bark, and bark more. But I am not going to call Oakley PD for a noise violation as they have better things to do.
I would hope a dog owner would have the common courtesy to ensure their dog does not bark for a long period of time. If not, I’d encourage neighbors to politely knock on the door or leave a note. If this doesn’t work, make sure multiple neighbors who also agree its a problem get involved by signing a group letter or also leave notes. You would be surprised how quickly one with a barking dog corrects the problem.
While there will be situations where this doesn’t work, police should ultimately be used as a last resort. I am also for keeping the noise levels of dogs low, but not at the expense of 30-minutes from our enforcement officer.
Ultimately, there is very little a city council can do other than create more paperwork for our officers, neighborhoods should be more proactive in solving this type of noise nuisances.
Below is the staff report on Tuesday Night’s City Council Agenda.
8.1 Work Session Regarding Potential Ordinance Amendments Relating to Animal Noise (Brent Smith, Chief Building Official)
Staff has recently received several complaints from citizens regarding barking dogs creating a neighborhood nuisance. This has caused us to re-examine our current tools and procedures dealing with this problem.
As Council knows, Oakley and the remainder of Contra Costa cities (with the singular exception of Antioch) contracts with the Contra Costa County Animal Services department for animal control issues. Barking dog complaints would typically be handled by the County, with our Police Department initially handling calls that come in to dispatch during evening hours.
We have an ordinance dealing with barking dogs that meets the enforcement criteria of County Animal Control. While the ordinance takes a balanced approach, it also makes enforcement difficult. For example, the ordinance, found at Oakley Municipal Code Sec. 4.2.302, makes it unlawful to keep a dog that makes noise “continuously and incessantly for a period of 15 minutes within any 30-minute period, or intermittently for one-half hour or more, to the disturbance of any person.”
As you can see, this ordinance commits an enforcement officer to at least a 30- minute stay at a location to verify that a violation is occurring, clearly a burden in these times of diminished resources. It is also our understanding that Animal Control requires a complaining party to attempt to get signatures of other neighbors on a petition against the barking dog before it will take action. Often this is seen as a deterrent to persons who have a complaint.
The City of Antioch, which has its own Animal Control department, has a simple but rather subjective ordinance which merely states that “no person shall allow their dog “to bark or howl with such frequency, or in such manner, as to disturb the peace of the immediate neighborhood.” Antioch distributes a log form to the complaining party, which is then used to document the duration, dates and times of barking, which is then turned in to Animal Control for further action.
Typically the next step taken is a letter from Animal Control to the owner of the barking dog, notifying of the complaint and seeking compliance with the ordinance, as well as outlining some of the penalties that could occur if the barking continues in the future.
If Council desires, Oakley could develop a program similar to Antioch’s, but this would also mean taking most of the enforcement action out of County Animal Control’s hands. In a way, this would be somewhat of a waste of resources, as we are paying the County for that service, and it is doubtful that the County would be willing to reduce its contract price if Oakley took over more local enforcement.
Essentially, enforcement would fall, under the local scenario, to our code enforcement department through use of visits, letters, and the use of the administrative citation procedure.
A typical enforcement matter would proceed as outlined below, hopefully with compliance at the earliest possible stage:
- Receipt of a citizen complaint;
- City sends a complaint log form to the citizen;
- Citizen returns the complaint log; City sends offender a courtesy letter;
- Complaining party contacts City that problem still exists; City could send offender a letter for offender to come to City for an enforcement conference; at which time mediation could occur;
- Problem still exists, City issues administrative citation;
- Offender either pays citation or appeals and requests administrative hearing.
The advantage to this system is that it takes enforcement out of the “criminal procedure” of a citation that goes to Court, but rather uses the civil procedure of the administrative citation. Whereas in the criminal process, guilt is determined “beyond reasonable doubt”, in a civil procedure liability is determined by a “preponderance of the evidence.”
The procedures outlined above are not a guarantee that the enforcement will be effective. For example, if the offender does not pay the administrative penalty, it is often difficult and inefficient for the City to try to do so. A complaining party could take the offender to Small Claims Court directly allegedly a property nuisance, but if the offender does not pay the court’s judgment, collection is also difficult.
The hope is that the enforcement process would resolve at least a majority of the complaints.
Obviously the alternative program will place an additional burden on the time and resources of the code enforcement program in Oakley, which will be more fully addressed during our study session.
Again, it is certainly valid to continue using the existing system with County Animal Control, and indeed, that is a service we are paying for. Any complaints about this service could be directed to the Supervisor of our District.
If Council were to be interested in an alternative enforcement procedure occurring more at the local level, staff could bring back an ordinance draft and a procedure outline.