Owners of noisy dogs could face fines, jail time

- Residents frustrated by the sound of constant barking could soon have some peace and quiet.

On Wednesday, Hillsborough County Commissioners will vote on an animal noise ordinance. The plan would impose penalties on owners whose dogs bark consistently for 20 minutes or more.

Owners could face up to $500 in fines and up to 60 days in jail.

Commissioner Sandy Murman is leading efforts to pass the ordinance. She said noisy animals are a big concern she hears from residents.

"I was getting a lot of complaints about dogs barking, and it just came to a point where I sat down with our Animal Services director and said, 'We have to do something,'" said Murman.

Murman said the ordinance would allow neighbors dealing with an animal noise issue to contact Hillsborough County Animal Control and have an officer come out to assess the situation.

Depending on the number and frequency of complaints, the pet owner could get a warning and recommendations for dog training or, if the problem persists, a fine or jail time.

"They have to take care of their pets and not let it be a nuisance in the neighborhood. People buy their homes, they're living the American dream, and we just want to make sure that they can have good quality of life in their neighborhoods," said Murman.

The ordinance could also apply to other animal noises, such as cats meowing.

Mixed emotions were expressed from pet owners who learned of the proposed ordinance on Tuesday. Jack Thompson said he has dealt with nuisance dog barking in the past. He said he can understand the need for a noise ordinance.

"Thank God the people next door moved out, because they had two pit bulls and a dachshund, and they left it in the back yard all the time," explained Thompson.

Others, like dog owner Henry Schroder, said they do not support the ordinance.

"When [my dog] was a puppy, he barked a lot. Especially if I had to go to work, and I wasn't there to keep him quiet," said Schroder. "I believe that communities should plan accordingly. If they don't want barking dogs in their area or in that community, then that's fine, but then somebody should have the ability to decide [in advance] whether or not they move there."

There are currently no laws in Hillsborough County dealing with barking dogs. Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the ordinance at approximately 10 a.m. during a meeting on Wednesday.

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