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Animal nuisance ordinance also requires patience

Taking a page from its county seat, Washington County has now instated a nuisance dog regulation, one that is sure to be tested by the testy.
The resolution makes it unlawful to keep any dog that “barks, howls, or whines in an excessive, continuous or untimely fashion. That includes any dog that creates a nuisance, adversely affects the health or disturbs the repose (rest) of any neighbor, or disturbs the peace and quiet of a neighborhood.”
The resolution continues on to say that kennels are not excluded and defines them as “any facility housing dogs, cats, or other household pets and where grooming, breeding, boarding, training or selling of animals is conducted as a business.”
Originally, county residents tended to live further apart than their city-dwelling neighbors. Often separated by acres rather than mere driveways, animal noises – mooing, bleating, barking and snorting – were an accepted part of the landscape. However, as the county has grown, so have neighborhoods, placing homes closer together.
Therein lies the problem.
If you live in the county and your neighbor has a barking dog, you now have recourse. You may report the incidents, and an animal control officer will be dispatched to your neighbor’s home.
They will receive one warning from sheriff’s deputies or animal control officers who respond to the complaint. Any person or business violating the resolution faces a civil fine. For the first offense, the fine will be not less than $25 and not more than $50, and each day the violation continues after the citation is issued will constitute a separate offense.
Report the problem a second time, and said animal control officer or deputy may issue a fine of not less than $50 and not more than $100, with each day constituting a separate offense.
And, if the problem is deemed serious enough, the county also may choose to seek legal action.
According to the law, “The Chancery or Circuit Court may order the person to remove any nuisance from their property, order the animal removed to animal control for adoption, pay a civil penalty or pay damages resulting from the violations. Animal control officers also will be empowered to inspect any household or other premises if there is reasonable cause to believe a violation exists.”
But does the sword have a double-edge? Probably not.
Let’s suppose you have a small flock of sheep at your home. Your neighbor, now thoroughly ticked off because of complaints filed against his dog, decides he doesn’t like the smells or the sounds of your woolly creatures.
He returns the favor by calling the authorities on your “nuisance animals.” Their excessive “bleating” is disturbing his sleep, he complains, and the stench is unbearable.
Now what to do? If the aggravation isn’t canine, is it then benign?
Such a scenario is probably ridiculous, but at the same time, it is possible as a result of the new resolution adopted by the county commission. Even County Mayor George Jaynes questioned it, asking at the February meeting where it was adopted, “How do you stop a dog from barking?”
Abuse of a law is never a good thing. And tolerance among neighbors works even better than the proverbial “good fence.”
Certainly there will be instances when authorities need to step in. But we suggest that most of the time, neighbors should exercise some restraint and patience with one another.
If you have a home outside the city limits, try to focus on the enjoyment of living in the most beautiful county in Tennessee. And if that doesn’t work, try counting your blessings instead of sheep.