Barking mad

Harried victims of neighbors' persistently loud dogs deserve peace
Barking dogs have become an increasing problem in Augusta's Harrisburg community. Fact is, almost everyone has a story to tell about a bothersome loud dog.

We’d call it a silent epidemic. Yet it’s anything but silent.


It’s the maddening problem of barking dogs.

We have found since a Feb. 10 news article in The Augusta Chronicle that almost everyone has a barking dog story – often a current, unresolved, pull-your-hair-out, day-in-day-out annoyance.

And as trivial as it sounds, the damage is very real.

Perhaps even more than sufferers know: The chronic barking of a neighbor’s dog can have a profound, unseen impact on you, as your nervous system – which affects other systems and organs in your body – is constantly asked to absorb “a loud, sudden, percussive burst of barking,” says

“When a dog barks, he creates sound waves,” the website explains. “Sound waves are real physical entities that have a real physical effect on our bodies. …

“It is normal and natural for people to be irritated and upset as a result of exposure to sound, especially loud, sharp sounds that erupt suddenly and without warning.”

And, we would add, one of the most maddening things about chronic barking is its indefiniteness: You never know when it’s going to end.

As further evidence of barking’s deleterious impact, notes that law enforcement agencies often use sound to drive criminals, hold-outs and despots to distraction to the point of giving themselves up.

“When the federal government wanted to push the Branch Davidians to the breaking point in the siege at Waco, they bombarded them with sound, including the sounds of animals in distress,” the website says. “When the U.S. military wanted to drive Manuel Noriega from his sanctuary in Panama, they used the same strategy, because they knew that chronic noise is an intolerable irritant that drives people frantic.”

Yet, owners and authorities act as if you’re being picky if you complain about the noise – which is no less pollution than any other form of it.

This area’s laws are laughably weak, too, when it comes to protecting innocent ears and nervous systems. You practically have to have a police officer witness a dog barking the length of War and Peace before they’ll do anything about it.

In Columbia County, for instance, it takes two signed witnesses to make written statements with specific dates and times of noise violations – and even then, a citation won’t be issued if the owner hasn’t been given a warning in the past three months.

One complainant in Columbia County whose neighbor left town and left the dog barking 24/7 was told by a sheriff’s officer there was nothing he could do.

So the barking goes on – adding an extraneous soundtrack to your favorite TV shows, distracting you from your reading or any other form of concentration, and making it difficult to sleep or even rest.

Sleep deprivation brings its own cavalcade of health impairments and quality-of-life issues.

For the life of us, we don’t have one earthly clue why dog owners would be so inconsiderate as to let their dogs go on like they do. It’s rude and thoughtless and, frankly, low class. And, as full of holes as the laws are, allowing dogs to bark ad infinitum is, inarguably, against the law.

As The Chronicle’s Feb. 10 article noted, “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.”

This has to stop. Not only is it unfair and harmful to those who have to put up with it, but it can erode, if not destroy, the quality of life in a community.

The laws need stiffening. Citations must be issued with more certainty and frequency, and fines must be substantial enough to warrant an owner’s rapt attention.

As much as new laws, though, we need a renewed dedication to enforcing them.

The Sussex County Council in Delaware recently rejected a barking dog ordinance when they discovered a state statute covered the subject even better. Problem is, a Delaware official reports, “The Delaware State Police have been dispatched to 13 barking dog complaints in Sussex County from Jan. 1, 2013, until Jan. 22, 2014. Of those 13, 0 citations were issued.”

The barking dogs have been heard. Loud and clear.

It’s time for the beleaguered victims to be, too.

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