Fred Young has two Augusta neighbors in the city’s historic Harrisburg district that just won’t shut up.
Forget about reasoning with them.
“It’s horrible,” Young, 65, said of the dogs’ barking spells, which can be heard along the 800 block of Crawford Avenue, mostly in the early afternoon and evening.
“It’s loud, annoying and happens in spurts. Sometimes lasting 15 to 20 minutes, other times as much as an hour.”
The Harrisburg rottweilers are one of the daily complaints made to the Augusta 911 Center about noisy dogs, with residents mostly alerting the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office to a canine that has been “barking 24/7,” said Edward Jefferson, the field operations manager with Augusta Animal Services.
Dog owners can be fined $1,000 and face up to 60 days in jail if their animal disturbs the “comfort or repose of any person” by causing “frequent or long-continued noise,” according to the city’s public safety ordinance.
Misdemeanor citations for excessive barking can be issued against dog owners, but authorities said that rarely happens because by the time deputies arrive to investigate, the dog is silent or can be calmed.
“It’s a judgment call for the officer,” said Lt. Calvin Chew, the spokesman of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, which has authority over barking dog complaints. “If a person is making attempts to quiet the animal, then so be it, but the officer has to actually hear the dog barking.”
Because the Augusta 911 Center groups all animal calls together, the barking dog complaints can be hard to track in Richmond County. Director Dominick Nutter said his staff received 910 calls in the past year for lost or stray animals and 255 calls for animal cruelty.
Jefferson said the two categories represent the leading cause for dogs breaking the city’s noise ordinance because lost or mistreated animals usually become more vocal or lead to other dogs’ barking as they roam the streets or howl while searching for food, water and companionship.
Among the problem areas identified by residents for lost, stray and loud animals is Tenth Street at Perry Avenue and along Crawford Avenue. A reporter with The Augusta Chronicle found three unleashed dogs roaming both areas last week in only 30 minutes.
Young filed a formal complaint against the Harrisburg rottweilers with the sheriff’s office in November 2012 for the dogs “barking frequently and causing a disturbance.”
He said the dogs bark particularly when people or loose dogs walk past, but said sometimes it appears they bark for “no reason at all.”
A deputy visited the home and heard one of the dogs bark “intermittently,” according to an incident report, but was unable to get anyone to come to the door. Neither could The Chronicle.
Repeated knocks on the front door went unanswered, and numbers listed in the phone book for the address were disconnected.
A police report stated animal services checked on the wellbeing of the dogs and left a note at the residence
notifying them of the complaint.
Though the service does not have the authority to write noise citations, Jefferson said it is common practice for his officers to visit homes of barking dogs and check to see if the animal is healthy and has adequate shelter, food and water and a clean living area.
He said there could be many reasons for a dog barking excessively, but that mostly it is because the owner is not giving them enough attention.
“Animals, just like humans, want companionship,” Jefferson said. “You can’t leave them staked out in the yard. You have to give them love, too. If you do that, they’ll be happier.”
If animal control officers discover a dog has a life-threatening condition, they’ll give owners 24 hours to fix the problem before seizing the pet and filing animal cruelty charges. For minor illnesses, it’s 72 hours, Jefferson said.
“If we go out and talk to the owner and tell them they need to try to curtail the barking, 99 percent of the time, they will comply with our request,” he said.
Chew agreed, saying most times owners are able to calm their animals when an officer shows up. If problems persist, he said, deputies will consider the time of day and the perceived reason for the dog barking before issuing a citation.
Young’s complaint did not result in a citation. Since then, staff at a child development center next door that specializes in occupational, physical and speech therapies said it has received complaints about the dogs being loud and one breaking free from its chain and approaching a family as they loaded a wheelchair-bound child into a van.
Young, a retired Augusta Technical College professor, said he plans to install thicker windows in two weeks to help with the problem.
“A little bit of barking is OK,” he said. “But constant barking gets on your nerves. Every time they bark, you start to jump a little.”