Why Current Law Must Change


1) It is a law that endangers the victims it is supposed to protect.

2) It is a law that further victimizes the victims.

3) It is an unenforceable law that simply does not work.

4) It is a law that allows disturbed people to use their dogs as weapons.

5) It is a law that guarantees absolutely no protection whatsoever to the victims.

6) It is a law that places an improper burden on the victims. 

7) It is a shameful law that endangers the public health and safety.

1) It is a law that endangers the victims it is supposed to protect

The city of San Francisco recently passed a law that authorized all city employees to write citations to anyone they saw littering. However, the authorization was soon rescinded because the city quickly discovered that, unless there was an armed police officer standing right there to protect them, it was simply too dangerous for city employees to confront those who litter.

Think about that. The city of San Francisco found out the hard way that confronting a stranger over a discarded piece of paper in a public place is intolerably dangerous.

Now, as I introduce you to the Sonoma County "anti-barking" law, please keep in mind what they learned in San Francisco about how dangerous it is to cross someone over a piece of litter.

The barking law for the County of Sonoma stipulates that before the authorities can or will do anything that has any real chance of helping a citizen whose health is being destroyed by a neighbor who refuses to quiet his barking dog, the victim first has to:

• confront the dog owner,

• file against the dog owner in court,

• engage in months of tedious, detailed data gathering in order to collect evidence to be used against the dog owner in court,

• testify against the dog owner in court,

• and recruit at least one other person from at least one other household who will also agree to file, gather data, and testify against the dog owner in court.

The county of Sonoma expects you to openly spearhead a legal drive against a guy you may share a wall with, even though he most certainly cares a great deal more about those animals than most people care about a small piece of litter or a minor citation.

As a bark abuse victim, they expect you to take your chances with the guy next door, who could well be a violence-prone nut case for all you know. He could be the kind that will turn not only on you, but also on your family. He could be on methamphetamine, which has been known to cause people to explode into violence with the slightest provocation. He could be an anti-social personality disorder with an innate love of conflict. He could be armed to the teeth. He might have just completed a ten-year stretch for murder. He might have been drinking and growing progressively more volatile all day, getting meaner by the minute so that he is all set to go off about the time he gets the message from the county informing him that you are the one who set in motion all of his canine-related legal woes. 

As a matter of sure and certain, indisputable, absolute fact, many bark abuse victims do live next door to people who are just exactly that volatile and that dangerous.  Which is why, when the county forces people to openly file against their neighbors before it will agree to help them with their barking dog problem, it is a sure and certain matter of indisputable absolute fact that the county, thereby, places some of those people in terrible danger.  It is also a matter of sure and certain, indisputable, absolute fact that any time you start pressing a neighbor about his barking dogs, unless you know exactly who you are dealing with, there is no telling what that person will do, or where it will lead - which is exactly why the last thing the people of this county need is a law that forces us to set ourselves up in that fashion before the authorities will even go through the motions of pretending to try to help us.

The fact that Sonoma County's current barking law forces bark abuse victims to enter into what is all but certain to become an acrimonious relationship with their irresponsible and/or malicious dog-owning neighbors is particularly unfortunate, because the guy next door lives next door.  So he knows just exactly where he can find both you and your family at any time of the day or night. What's more, your neighbor is in a position to know when you are not there to protect your family and your property against reprisal.

You have to remember that force-feeding the sound of a barking dog into someone else's home is an extremely hostile thing to do. Therefore, just the fact that your neighbor has chosen to do it is a strong indicator that it may not be safe for you become openly involved in the process of trying to make him stop. 

These days there are simply too many people who are crazed by crack, irrationally enraged by alcohol, or deranged by methamphetamine to force the victims of barking dog abuse to play Russian roulette with the ex-con next door before the county will agree to address the altogether unnecessary problem that it itself so recklessly created.

2) It is a law that further victimizes the victims

Forcing the complainants to confront, conduct surveillance on, and testify against the perpetrators in court all but guarantees that the victim of any given barking abuse case will be forced to enter into an antagonistic relationship with the perpetrator.  In that way the Sonoma County two-household law victimizes the victims a second time.

3) It is an unenforceable law that simply does not work
Because driving forward the current Sonoma County law represents a potential danger to the complainant and his family, and because the complainant will almost certainly find it impossible to recruit people from another household who will be willing to submit themselves to a similar ordeal, and expose themselves and their loved ones and their property to a similar risk of retribution, that law is all but totally unenforceable. Hence, it simply does not work.

4) It is a law that allows disturbed people to use their dogs as weapons

Dogs are wonderful, noble animals.  There are no finer creatures on earth.  

However, there are some very bad people around.  Some of those bad people are so bad that they actually enjoy inflicting injury on other people, and they do so regularly as a sort of recreational activity.  Such sociopaths look for ways in which they can injure other people and get away with it, without having to pay any price for the harm they cause to those they victimize in various ways.

For that kind of person, Sonoma County's current barking ordinance is a dream come true, because due to our county's unenforceable, made-to-fail law, such anti-social types can strike at their neighbors by letting their dogs bark all day and all night, non-stop, every day and night, sunrise to sunset to sunrise with no fear of law enforcement intervening.  They don't have to let the people next door sleep at all - ever. They can let their dogs bark until you're numb with fatigue and screaming hysterically. They can keep it up until exhaustion and stress destroy your marriage, your children are failing in school and suffering from chronic exhaustion, and everyone's health is ruined

Were such people to inflict equivalent injuries in any other context and by any other means, they would be arrested and charged with a felony.  But that's the way Sonoma County's ordinance works. It's not what you'd call a victim-friendly law. 

No indeed, in effect, Sonoma County's current barking ordinance legalizes chronic barking, which elevates the sociopath next door to a status wherein he is above the law and beyond accountability, while robbing his neighbors of all legal protection against any and all injures that are forthcoming from that avenue of attack.

Beyond a doubt - under Sonoma County's current barking law, as long as his dog's voice is the instrument whereby he does the damage, there is no limit to the extent to which the anti-social personality disorder living on the other side of that rickety little fence can inflict injury on you and your loved ones, and legally there is not a thing you can do about it.

5) It is a law that guarantees absolutely no protection whatsoever to the victims

Because over time, the noise of a barking dog can keep your blood pressure high enough for long enough to kill you, getting it stopped can - in the long run - quite literally be a matter of life and death.

That being the case, then, perhaps the most horrifying aspect of the Sonoma County law is that it does not actually guarantee you any protection whatsoever.  

Under that law, whether the stress from that barking dog next dog is going to destroy your health, wreck your marriage, and tear you family apart all depends on the behavior of a number of strangers and how they see things - and what kind of mood they are in on any given day.

First, there is your neighbor.  Unless he is in the mood to endanger his life, limb and property in order to join you in driving forward the legal process, then, you are dead in the water.

Then there is the head of animal services. Even if you get a second neighbor to sign on to the county's absurd two-household process, according to the Sonoma County law, the head of animal services still is not required to advance your case by handing it over to the district attorney's office for further action. No indeed. What happens after that all depends on the head of animal services, and what kind of mood he is in, and what he feels like doing.  Unfortunately, taking vigorous action against the owner of a barking dog is something he never feels like doing, because his bosses don't want him to do it.

Then there is the district attorney, who is notoriously unenthusiastic about prosecuting barking dog cases. Under the current Sonoma County law, before you can even hope to force a recalcitrant neighbor to quiet his dog through the county, not only do you have to win over the neighbor and the head of animal control, you must also sweet talk, charm, lobby and in general find a way to persuade the DA, because the law does not mandate that he help the victim either.

Then there is the judge. The Sonoma County law also does not mandate that he help the victim.

To be sure there is absolutely nothing in Sonoma County's current two-household law that mandates that the victim be assisted, much less that the victim be assisted in a timely fashion, which no doubt does much to explain why neither is happening.

6) It is a law that places an improper burden on the victims

We are here to remind our local elected officials that it is not the job of the private citizen to regulate the behavior of his neighbor. We aren't required to chase down speeding motorists or write tickets to other citizens when they park improperly. It should not fall to citizens to monitor a neighboring dog owner to make him behave responsibly, either. Forcing people to behave in a responsible manner is the purview of government, not the private individual.

7) It is a shameful law that endangers the public health and safety

In closing, it is a fraudulent law and a disgraceful sellout to the dog service and supply lobbies. Indeed, it is a sham and a total betrayal of the people. The board of supervisors should be ashamed. By adopting this monstrous statute they have so clearly failed in their sworn duty to safeguard the public health

Furthermore, by allowing the current barking law to stand, the supervisors fail to protect the public safety in two ways. First, because the sound of a barking dog force-fed into human habitat disrupts the autonomic and endocrine functioning of the victimized parties, it leads to belligerent behavior that saps the resources of law enforcement and, thereby, endangers not only the victims, but the entire public.

Secondly, because we know that for some dogs, barking at people is part of an incremental, developmental process that causes the animals grow vicious over time, we also know that by allowing those dogs to bark at passers-by without correction, the board of supervisors are dooming passing pedestrians - perhaps small children - to dog bites that can be avoided if the animals are bark trained or otherwise quieted early on.

© All material copyright Craig Mixon, Ed.D.