Letter to the Editor: Comments Not Targeted At Responsible Dog Owners

By Two Los Alamos Families

As a follow-up to our original editorial letter (“Please address … nuisance barking”), we would like to respond to the letter writers who have taken issue with our complaints and to further clarify our intent.

We are not dog haters. We have been responsible dog owners in the past, will likely be so again in the future, and have many neighbors and friends who are also responsible dog owners. We appreciate them and their dogs. Our letter was not targeted at responsible dog owners or dogs that engage in normal barking behavior. We acknowledge that a happy and healthy dog is not necessarily a quiet dog.

We agree that it is normal for dogs to defend their territory by barking when a threat (real or perceived) is present or when excited, and we understand that occasionally a responsible dog owner may accidentally or unintentionally leave their animal unattended for longer than desired (possibly resulting in longer than usual barking).

None of these behaviors or situations are the focus of our original letter. The nuisance barking and other behavior that we are concerned with include the following: dogs left unattended in a fenced in yard to bark meaninglessly hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year (be assured there are ample examples in this town of continuous barking from a single dog that easily exceed a half hour in duration); dogs that repeatedly and aggressively harass and try to attack pedestrians through the fence along busy public sidewalks (to the point where we have observed frightened and startled elderly walkers falling off the sidewalk and into the street). 

These negative behaviors are largely the result of serious neglect by dog owners. In the cases that frustrate us the most, we have never observed the respective owners walking their dogs or giving them regular exercise of any kind. In one case, the dogs are left penned in a chain-link enclosure in the yard all day, every day. They go from the house to their pen and back again and nowhere else. Whenever they are out in their pen, they bark (and understandably so – they are neurotic and unhappy). These animals are neglected and treated terribly and their owners give responsible dog owners in this town a bad name.  

Rather than reflexively jumping to the defense of dogs and dog owners in general (who we do not impugn in any way in our original letter) responsible dog owners in this town should acknowledge that irresponsible dog owners exist, that their dogs are unhappy and unhealthy (for everyone), and that something should be done to address the root cause of the problem (the owners).

Can we all just get along? We hope so. A start would be to acknowledge that one irresponsible person’s right to own a dog (and possibly treat it with cruelty and neglect, with resultant negative consequences for others) does not trump another person’s right to reasonable expectations of peace and quiet.

Editor’s note: To avoid negative issues with their neighbors, the writers of this letter requested their names be withheld.