Judge quiets barking dog complaint

LIHUE — A couple who filed a complaint against their neighbor for excessive barking under Kauai County’s Barking Dog Ordinance lost their civil case Thursday.

But Pamela Welch, 62, and Kent Nielsen, 63, of Wailua, were optimistic despite the ruling.

“We won also today because we wanted her dogs to be good, and they’ve been quiet for three months now,” Nielsen said.

Shona Fox, the couple’s neighbor and defendant in the case, said she was “saddened,” even though the court ruled in her favor.

“I have spent over $800 to re-home my dog. My dogs are part of my family,” said Fox, who gave away one of her three dogs.

The county’s ordinance, which was signed into law in March of 2014, defines excessive barking as being either consistent noises made by a dog for 20 minutes intermittently within a time span of 30 minutes, or for 10 minutes incessantly or without stopping. The noise can happen at any time day or night to be considered excessive, and also applies to dogs on private property.

If a person provokes someone’s dog or encroaches on their property, then the filed complaints aren’t considered legitimate.

Fox told the court she was told by a neighbor her dogs were provoked by Welch and Nielsen, and were prodded at with steaks or “pointed instruments” when she was away from home.

The neighbor who told her this, she said, was one of three people in her neighborhood who wrote and signed letters in her favor to provide as evidence.

During cross-examination, Fox, who represented herself, asked Nielsen if he interacted with her dogs in any way. Nielsen said he didn’t antagonize them but said he fed Fox’s dogs treats to calm them down, but stopped after he said Fox told him not to.

Nielsen and Welch filed a complaint about the noisy dogs in November.

The Kauai Humane Society sent a notice regarding the complaint to the dog owner, who had 10 days to solve the issue, as the ordinance outlines. The complainant is supposed to fill out a log book detailing the noisy violations thereafter.

Filling out the log wasn’t easy for Welch.

“It was difficult to fill out the log, because I needed to determine if the barking was ‘constant’ or ‘intermittent.’ I used a stopwatch to time everything,” she said.

Judge Joe P. Moss ruled in the 5th Circuit Court that ultimately he was “swayed” to rule in favor of Fox because she purchased around $180 in bark collars to prevent excessive barking from happening after she’d been notified of her neighbors’ complaint. Fox provided receipts as evidence of purchase of the dog collars.

Fines for barking dog violations range from $35 to $300.

Fox and Welch said noisy dogs and proper training to prevent the problem are important community issues to address.

The Barking Dog Ordinance, though, is a work in progress and is not being carried out very well because the legislation is too confusing, they said.

The couple found out about the anti-dog-barking law when they received campaign materials in the mail from Kauai County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, when she was running for re-election and who advocated for passing the Barking Dog Ordinance.

Yukimura and a humane society officer attended the case but declined to comment on it.

“We were already planning on filing a lawsuit against Shona for the barking, even before we knew about the Barking Dog Ordinance,” Nielsen said.

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