Letter to the Editor: Officials – Please Address Failure To Control Or Enforce Nuisance Dog Barking

By Two Los Alamos Families


Elected and other County officials – please address failure to control or enforce nuisance dog barking as described by the County Animal Control Ordinance (Section 6-6 and 6-12).


This letter is being written by two Los Alamos families who, like another recent editorial writer (“Actions on animal ordinance short-sighted and harmful to community”, Oct. 6), are frustrated by nuisance dog barking in our town, which has gone unaddressed for too long.


For over a year now we have been corresponding with animal control concerning nuisance barking at several homes in our neighborhood. We believe that the officials at animal control sympathize with us and would like to help solve the problem. But we’ve also come to understand that they are extremely short staffed, having had their employee count reduced by half recently, and rendering them unable to effectively carry out all of their enforcement responsibilities.


By the time they can respond to a complaint by visiting the offending home, the behavior has often stopped (temporarily). This has also been the case when animal control is not available and we’ve contacted police dispatch directly. Rather than perpetuate the resulting “boy-who-cried-wolf” syndrome, we’ve largely stopped seeking direct action by contacting the authorities.


To be clear, we are not claiming negligence on the part of animal control or police dispatch; animal control is too short staffed to deal with the problem effectively and the police (understandably) have more important things to spend their time on than barking dogs.


In addition to the lack of sufficient enforcement measures, we believe that there are three general reasons that homeowners decline to do anything about nuisance barking from their dogs:


  • First, the owners would honestly like the behavior to stop, but lack the knowledge or self-discipline to do so;
  • Second, the owners simply don’t think about, or care about, the fact that their animals behavior is negatively impacting the lives of others; and
  • Third, the owners actually want their dogs to bark regularly based on the (misguided) belief that a dog barking non-stop in their yard is a prowler or theft deterrent.


Standard solutions, such as “bark collars”, might work for the first case. For the second two cases, they are unlikely to work as they require some attitudinal or behavioral change on the part of the dog owners. In our experience even warnings from animal control, when given, have only been effective in changing the homeowner and offending animals behavior for very short periods of time.


We request two things in response to this letter: (1) that other citizens in town with similar concerns, experiences, problems, or complaints respond with letters and other appropriate forms of communication of their own (to add to our description of this problem, making it clear that the problem is not unique or occurring in only a single neighborhood); (2) that the appropriate elected town officials respond to our letter noting why this problem has gone unresolved for so long and what will be done to correct the widespread non-compliance with the existing County animal control ordinance.


We would like to remind our elected County officials and enforcement authorities that, approximately one year ago, every household in Los Alamos received a brochure from the county outlining the local laws with respect to dog ownership and expected behaviors. This included a detailed section on nuisance barking and the associated penalties; a fine not to exceed $500 or imprisonment not to exceed 90 days. Clearly, this policy has not received the amount of enforcement attention the law intends or there would be no need for this letter.


We respectfully request that Los Alamos County government officials and authorities respect your own carefully crafted ordinance, protect your citizens’ right to tranquility and harmonious neighborhood relations, and take proactive corrective action to address the nuisance barking problem as soon as possible.


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


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