Repeal of barking dog law would be a mistake

What’s that saying? It goes something like, “It’s only a problem if you don’t have a solution.” It applies well to the Kauai County Council and its consideration of a proposal to repeal the barking dog ordinance. It may repeal the law on the books, without offering anything better, without offering another approach and without offering a different solution. Even the reasons for wanting to repeal the law are vague, based on general, sweeping statements without any details, just that it’s not working.

There is no question some dogs barking incessantly is a problem. Many people have testified to that. That’s why the council approved the law last year. It recognized a problem and tried to provide an avenue to fix it. Now, it would be nice if neighbors could just work things out, chat about concerns over coffee or a beer and see what could be done to keep everyone happy without lawyers getting involved. Imagine this exchange:

“Hey Joe, your dog is barking all day and night. Think you could let him in the house more often or maybe walk him a few times a day?”

“Well, sure. I didn’t know you could hear him. How about we let him out later and bring him in earlier? He’ll still bark some, as dogs do, but hopefully not enough to bother you.”

Wouldn’t that be nice? We all agree it would be better if people just worked things out between them.

But that’s not often how these things go. In such situations, depending on the aloha between neighbors, the sides tend to draw lines, bad feelings fester and finally, there’s an exchange:

“Hey Joe, shut your dog up. It’s driving me nuts with its endless yapping.”

“Dogs bark. My dog is just protecting our property. Get used to it.”

Hence, the dog barking ordinance introduced by councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura in 2013 and passed by the council in March 2014. It’s not going to improve relations between neighbors, but at least it provided a process to lead to eventual resolution. Let’s be clear. The barking dog law isn’t creating a problem between neighbors. It isn’t the source of bad blood. The problem, the ill will because of the barking, already existed.

Under the existing ordinance, a dog owner may face penalties if a dog barks, bays, cries, howls, or makes any other noise continuously for a period of 10 minutes, or intermittently for 20 minutes of a 30-minute period, regardless of the time of day.

Penalties do not apply, however, if the barking is due to a person trespassing or provoking the animal.

Penalties range from $50 for a first violation, to $100 for a second violation occurring within 90 days of the first violation.

Penalties for subsequent violations can range from $200 to $500, and a judge can order other remedies, such as obedience school.

These rules aren’t unreasonable. And the law has, according to some folks, worked. Some testified it has resulted in less barking. The Kauai Humane Society, which enforces it, has gotten 75 complaints since the ordinance went into effect and of those, 17 citations were eventually issued. Those numbers don’t indicate this law is being abused.

If the barking dog law isn’t effective, isn’t working, isn’t doing what it was meant to do, by all means, amend it. Change it. Correct it. But to repeal the law without offering a solution and without specifically explaining why it’s not working, just sends this situation back to square one and to more conflicts between neighbors.

The council can do better than Bill 2590.

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