Letter to the Editor: We Extend Our Sympathy To Residents Enduring Barking Dogs

By Los Alamos Couple

Dear County Councilors, Law Enforcement Officers and Residents,

We read with interest the letters from individuals and families who are frustrated with the difficulty of enforcing the nuisance dog barking ordinance and the lack of sensitivity and cooperation on the part of neighbors who continue to allow their dogs to bark and annoy others. 

We extend our sympathy and support to these residents. We know it can be a lonely battle. It’s one we’ve been fighting for over four years with considerable, but not total, success. It is interesting that we discussed the ordinance with a council candidate who came to our door campaigning and were assured there would be no attempt to water it down. Then exactly the opposite happened.

We have tried every method of communication possible from phone calls, ringing doorbells, letters in mailboxes and reports to Animal Control or the Police when there were dogs that engaged in unrelenting barking. Nobody wants to call the police on their neighbors. It is a very difficult thing to do and usually means the end of any positive relationship that may or may not have existed. So be it.

The responses we have received from dog owners have run the gamut from sincere apologies accompanied by homemade muffins and an immediate trip to Albuquerque to get barking collars to complete denial, rude dismissals, and accusations of harassment. One owner has even suggested that since we are the ones being bothered, it must be our own fault. It is indeed an interesting endeavor to say the least.

The 10 minute, 30 minute, or whatever allowable time limit for barking is ridiculous. If one waits 30 minutes after a dog begins barking before calling Animal Control, it takes them an hour to get there because they are busy doing something else, then they have to personally witness the barking for yet another 30 minutes, that means two hours have gone by while neighbors are subjected to this incredibly annoying noise.

We will say that we have had nothing but good response from Animal Control and the Police but there are only so many of them to go around and they do have to prioritize their responses. We have no complaint against them except that they do not seem to enforce the citation part of the policy consistently. Owners are supposed to be cited on the second call and that rarely happens. Perhaps prior calls are not well documented or the officers don’t check the records before they respond or perhaps they don’t want to be bothered. We just don’t know.

If there were no “warnings” or second chances and owners had to go to court and pay a significant fine every time, they would likely take it more seriously. During the past year we have read of only one situation in which an owner was actually fined in court. Maybe we have missed some but that isn’t a very good track record considering the number of violations. We have also been told by officers that if the owner is not home, there is nothing they can or will do except perhaps leave a warning note on the door.
This can happen a dozen times, yet nothing is really ever done. That is not enforcement. It’s poor policy.

We non-dog owners are a minority in our neighborhood. We like dogs. That is, we like well-behaved, well trained and well managed dogs. There are nine houses on our compact block and at least 11 dogs. If each dog gets 30 minutes a day of unrestrained or even intermittent barking that’s over five hours a day.

When one dog barks, it sets off a chain reaction down the block and pretty soon there are several more joining in. Much of the time the owners are not home. They go to work or out of town and leave the dogs outside on their own with no one to call or intervene if there is a problem. Again, most dog owners in our neighborhood are considerate and responsible. They walk and exercise their dogs daily and do not allow them outside for extended periods of time unless they are with them.

These dogs are not the problem. Probably another example of the 80/20 theory. 80 percent of the problem is caused by 20 percent of the dogs/owners. But when those owners remain clueless, in denial, and lack consideration or respect for their neighbors, it is more than enough to create a stressful situation. It is compounded in the warmer months when we want to leave doors or windows open at night for cool air. Unhappiness is a dog yapping at midnight or 5 a.m. even for 10 minutes.

We appreciate the others who spoke at the meeting and wrote letters to the media. We are with you and will continue to employ whatever methods seem to work to ensure that we can live in comfort and reasonable peace and quiet in our own home and encourage others to do the same. We hope council members and law enforcement will continue to work to understand this issue and make the
policies fair and provide for necessary enforcement for the good of the community. 

Perhaps we should consider ourselves lucky we only have barking dogs to complain about and not bombs and rockets being launched at us or catastrophic diseases wiping out our community. Los Alamos is a wonderful place to live.