I had a little dust-up over the weekend with a neighbor who owns a beagle with the voice box of a Boeing 767 and the result was threats from her husband and a promise that, no, she wouldn't do anything about the incessant howling that was keeping my windows closed and preventing me from using my deck.
After our discussion, her 500-pound husband showed up in my back yard as I was unloading dirt from my truck and continued the conversation with, "Are you the one who was arguing with my wife?" and I said, "That would probably be accurate if your wife is the one with the loud beagle."
"Well," he said, "we're building a fence for the dog and until then, he's going to bark some."
"You characterize that pained and incessant howl as 'bark some'?" I said. "Generous of you. You already have a fence and the dog's howling because he's tied up and left alone. That's a real good sign of bad ownership."
That pissed him off. "You're the one that called the dog warden on us, ain't you?" he said.
"That'd be me," I countered. "You didn't seem to be around, but the dog sure was and I had company on my deck. We couldn't hear each other talking."
"If you call them again," he said, getting redder and fatter by the minute, "I'm suing for harassment." Interesting concept: liability for reporting a crime.
"We have some pretty crazy ordinances in the city," I said, "but I don't think it's breaking the law to report a public menace and disturbing the peace."
"You just try it," he said.
"I will," I promised. "Next time the dog howls, you'll get a visitor. Now, I think it's time for you to leave." And he did.
Next day, I e-mailed my pal Bill Hackworth, the Roanoke City Attorney and he mediated. I was right, the fat guy was wrong.
Here's the ordinance (with this caveat from Bill, "We do not have an ordinance creating an offense for someone who calls the police to report violations of City ordinances. "):
Sec. 6-11. Public nuisance animal.
(a) A public nuisance animal shall mean and include any animal or animals that:
(1) Is observed to run at large, as defined by section 6-22, two (2) or more times in any six-month period;
(2) Excessively makes disturbing noises including, but not limited to, continued or repeated howling, barking, whining, or other utterances causing unreasonable annoyance, disturbance or discomfort to neighbors or others in close proximity to the premises where the animal is kept or harbored;
(b) No person shall keep, harbor, act as the custodian of or permit to remain in or about any premises occupied by him any public nuisance animal, and violation of this section shall constitute a Class 3 misdemeanor. In addition, any violation of this section is hereby declared a public nuisance, and any person suffering injury or damage therefrom may seek correction, removal or abatement of such public nuisance through appropriate suit in equity. Any public nuisance animal, as defined by subsection (a) of this section, may be impounded. (c) This section shall have no application to dangerous and vicious dogs which are regulated by division 3 of this article.
Sec. 6-26. Barking or howling dogs.
The harboring or keeping of any dog, which by loud, frequent or habitual barking or howling or by other conduct likely to cause annoyance and disturb the peace and quiet of any person or neighborhood, which loud, frequent or habitual barking or howling or other conduct is heard or observed by any animal control officer, other officer or other person, shall be unlawful, and any such dog is hereby declared to be a public nuisance. Any such dog may, after reasonable notice has been given by an animal control officer to the owner of such dog, if known, or upon complaint of any person, if such owner is unknown, be impounded and confined in the city dog pound by an animal control officer or any police officer.
Sounds clear to me. If you have a barking dog, shut his noisy ass up or you can lose him. And you can probably lose more than that if the offended citizen chooses to make it so.