A downtown woman wants the City to change its barking-dog bylaw so that all it takes is one complaint for fines to be given to owners of noisy canines.
Christina Mader wrote council saying she can’t get other neighbours to back up her complaints about a shrill, yapping dog that lives nearby.
“I’m just complaining about the one that’s immediate, next door. It barks whenever they let it out the door,” she said Friday.
“The problem is the dog barks when somebody walks by, including us. When we walk by the fence, it barks. And when somebody walks by, particularly with a dog or something unusual, like they’re carrying something, it’ll bark.”
Mader listed a number of reasons why she can’t get other neighbours to follow her lead and lodge a complaint with the City — either they don’t hear well, don’t speak English, are afraid of repercussions, have dogs themselves or are friends of the owner of the offending pooch.
In a written response in Tuesday’s council agenda, City corporate services and community safety director David Duckworth said a fine can be issued with fewer than three complaints.
However, City enforcement staff must have three complaints to establish a noise offence beyond a reasonable doubt for case law requirements for a strong likelihood of conviction, he wrote.
He said Mader has made many noise complaints over the years, some of them involving dog barking. Bylaws staff have explained the need for statements from other neighbours to back up the claims.
There have been times when staff couldn’t establish a noise disturbance in the area, despite Mader’s complaints, Duckworth said.
He said if the City allowed fines on single complaints, there would likely be more court disputes.
Mader said she doesn’t see why the City can’t judge each situation individually, especially since her neighbours aren’t willing to come forward. Her husband is also bothered by the dog’s barking, but the two of them only count as one complaint.
“I want them to look at it on a case-by-case basis. They can just come and hang out in my back yard for a day or two,” she said.
“I’m drawing attention to the problem that this bylaw doesn’t solve. I don’t have a solution. Like I say, they can come hang out at my house. It’s a real problem.”
Mader has tried strategies to keep the dog next door quiet, such as ringing big chimes she bought or blowing a whistle when it barks.
“It’s a signal to the owner to take the dog in. It sort of works,” she said.
While she understood that going with lone complaints could turn into a lot of he-said-she-said disputes, she still felt if someone is annoyed enough to call the City repeatedly, the problem should bear looking at.
“A single complaint 10 times a year has got some teeth, in my opinion. What I would suggest they do. . . . there needs to be some sensitivity shown to people bothered by dogs next door.”
Duckworth’s note to council said a move to single-complaint fines would result in more disputes going to court, which would spawn more lawyer fees and more staff time spent in court.
But Mader thought that was jumping to conclusions