Sussex County Considers Excessive Barking Ordinance - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Sussex County Considers Excessive Barking Ordinance

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GEORGETOWN, Del. - The Sussex County Council may be enacting a new ordinance that could penalize dog owners who fail to keep their pets quiet. At a public hearing Tuesday, people from both sides of the debate presented their case. The council will likely make a decision within the next two weeks.

One of those arguing against the ordinance was Pat Fish of Georgetown. WBOC took a trip to her home, and met her 12-year-old dog Joanne. Like most dogs, Joanne was a barker, and because of her size each bark resonated in the air. Fish said the dog is more like family to her. 

"I just got widowed this past April," she said. "And this dog means the world to me. She protects me. It means everything to me."

Fish said she has received complaints from neighbors about the barking. But she said it's typically for no longer than 5 minutes. The details aren't yet decided, but in order to file a complaint of "excess barking," it likely will have to continue for at least 30 minutes, according to Brian Whipple from the Delaware Animal Care and Control.

Whipple said that in 2013 alone, there have been 60 complaints about "excessive dog-barking." In New Castle County where this ordinance is already in effect, there are hundreds of complaints each year.

"It does affect people," Whipple said. "And it does effect how people live. And how they enjoy their property."

Whipple said that on the first complaint, they will go to the home and educate the owner about the ordinance. On the second complaint, they will then go to neighboring homes to see if they have also noticed the barking. At this time, they will also issue a final warning. On the third complaint, they will escalate the punishment, he said. 

"If there is a third complaint we're more than likely gonna write you a citation," he said. "And we'll have to take you to court."

Some such as Mary Lou Ritson of Lewes said that this change is a good thing to stop the barking that surround her home. She said it's not about the dog, but the owner. She argued that they need to send their pets to obedience school so that they don't continue to bark and disturb their neighbors.

"As soon as they (her neighbors) leave for the house in the morning at 7 o'clock," she said. "The dogs start to bark, and bark and bark and bark." 

The decision would apply to all of Sussex County, but local law would supercede the decision. But in outskirt areas, governed by the county the ordinance would apply if approved.

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