Monday, August 13, 2012

Why the Double Standard?

A few months ago, I called our local animal control agency to report an aggressively barking, unattended, and unmuzzled pit bull. The dog was kept in a neighbor's back yard. That yard had such flimsy fencing that it wouldn't have stopped this dog if it really wanted to escape.

The animal control dispatcher told me that as long as the aggressively barking (and possibly unlicensed) pit bull hasn't broken out and attacked anyone, it's not illegal.

So much for getting animal control to do anything. You'd think that they might be a tad interested in the licensing status of the dog. Last I checked, having an unlicensed dog was illegal around here.

Now, let's do a little thought experiment. Let's say that you're a human being, and you're in the habit of going out in your back yard and hollering threats at passersby. Doesn't matter if they're walking by themselves, walking with friends or family, or not walking at all. Maybe they're using wheelchairs or motorized scooters. Or, perhaps, they're walking their dog on a leash.

And there you are, shouting your head off. To make sure that everyone notices what you're doing, you're not just standing in your yard. You're rushing up to the fence that separates your yard from a heavily used sidewalk and street. What's worse, you're looking like you could jump that fence at any time. Hey, there's nothing like getting up close and personal with passersby, now is there?

I'll bet that, before too long, someone is going to pick up the phone and dial the magic three numbers. You know, 9-1-1.

I'd also venture to guess that when the police arrive, they're going to be more than a little interested in your ongoing habit of threatening anyone and everyone. At the very least, you'll probably be cited for disturbing the peace. You might also be warned that you'll be facing arrest if you don't stop the ranting and raving.

Seems to me that there's a bit of a double standard here. The dogs are given a pass, but similar behavior in humans causes all kinds of concern.

In an excellent essay on his website, Dr. Craig Mixon writes, "It is a great scandal that those entrusted with the oversight of the public safety have made the decision to tolerate belligerent barking, because allowing a dog to hurl verbal threats at passersby greatly increases the chances that the animal will eventually bite someone. Beyond a doubt, the decision of those in authority to ignore threatening barkers contributes greatly to the epidemic of dog bites."

Right on, Dr. Mixon.

As for the uber-aggressive pit bull, I found that animal control was useless. And the police were more interested in intimidating me, that neighbor who kept calling about the barking, than actually doing anything to enforce the disturbing the peace laws that our city has on its books.

One cop even threatened me with arrest for making a false report. That's because he and a fellow officer finally showed up several hours after I called to report the barking. Nothing like having plans for a quiet Sunday evening shattered by non-stop noise. There was no place in my house where I could go to escape the barkathon. And what was I supposed to do? Spend money on a motel room because some idiot neighbors couldn't control their dog?

Well, wouldn't you know it, by the time the cops arrived, the dog had barked itself out. Since the officers didn't hear a peep out of it, the problem had to be with me.

A few hours after that police call, the pit bull and its owners vanished from this neighborhood. And, guess what, nobody misses them.

The Department of Shameless Self-Promotion. Are your local animal control and law enforcement blowing off their responsibility to ensure peace and quiet in your community? When they start hearing from those who pay their salaries, believe me, they'll start paying attention. In addition to telling officialdom how you feel, tell the public too. I have a whole line of bumper stickers and tee shirts for peace and quiet activists in the QuietBarkingDogs store.


  1. Good post. I think it would be good advice for anyone in that situation to gather some evidence on their own... i.e. capture some video with sound of the dog barking. At a minimum, that would help protect you from a "false report" charge. I know that's a PITA, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

    It is indeed truly outrageous that most of our "enforcement" authorities invest most of their time and energy in discrediting the victim as opposed to focusing their energies where they belong... ON THE DOG OWNER! I am sorry for your difficulties, your situation was outrageously unfair (as most situations of this type are).

    Is the dog still there? If so, I'd make up some video and mail it to the mayor's office and the chief of police. Or, was this the dog you got evicted by reporting the tenant to the landlord?

    1. This isn't the dog that I got evicted by reporting the tenant to the landlord. It's a different landlord, and he's long been known as a problem landlord around here. At some point, I'll post the letter that we neighbors recently sent him.

  2. One other thing I just thought of... you are RIGHT the first thing AC should do when they get a call is verify that the dog is 1) Licensed, and 2) up to date on its shots. Cops do that on EVERY vehicle stop: License and registration, Please!!!

    Again, going back to the point of your essay, it really is all about promoting the interests of the dog and the owner, isn't it?

    1. A good friend of mine used to work in county government. He said that animal control was a dumping ground for people who clearly weren't cut out for their jobs, but the county just couldn't get around to firing them.

  3. OOPS... just noted that you wrote that the miscreants with the Pit Bull are gone.

    Good thing they didn't try to stay and "tough it out".

    1. As we know all too well, owners of pit bulls and other aggressive dogs tend to be involved in criminal activity. At much higher rates than, say, the owners of Golden Retrievers.

      If crime is what you're involved in, frequent visits from the constabulary are not the sort of scrutiny that you want.

      Something tells me that this neighborhood got a wee bit uncomfortable for the pit bull owners. And that they bailed out of here in a hurry.

  4. Have you determined who is licensed to carry homeowner's insurance in your state? Copy the information detailing this landlord/tenant and send it to all on the list.

    Also have attorney send notification to city officials that animal control knows that an aggressive dog is acting violently and not properly contained and unlicensed (probably no rabies shot either right?) and that when the dog attacks, the city will be held responsible and they and animal control officer will be sued. Same goes for landlord.

    Animal control is enabling an attack. Landlord is enabling an attack.

  5. You also have the right to peace and quiet enjoyment of your home. That is a legal term worth research.

    For sure get video. After someone dies, it will be court evidence against the city and animal control.

  6. I can't imagine a human being rushing a fenceline and ranting and raving and shouting at passersby like a dog does, but I can't imagine a human being going in the yard and urinating and defecating either.....wait.....yes I can....I know a man who peed on a tree when only a block away from his house.....and a woman who used a bucket in the backyard to do her business in. Yikes!