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Barking dogs on short leash in Jackson

Faced by a rising tide of complaints about barking dogs, Jackson County commissioners indicated this week that they would consider passing an ordinance that would muzzle the offenders.

“I’ve had negative experiences with barking dogs,” said Commissioner Doug Cody. “I can sympathize with people who have an issue with dogs. I think we need to take a hard look at it.”

The difficulty, Cody said, is in the mechanics of such an ordinance.

County Planner Gerald Green said there were two ways to regulate barking dogs. The county could amend the county’s noise ordinance and remove the exemption for animals or it could amend it’s animal control ordinance to address barking dogs.

Green said that he had surveyed Jackson’s neighbors and found most typically attempt to control barking dogs through noise ordinances. The problem, he said, is enforcement. The three counties surveyed, Transylvania, Haywood and Swain, all fell short in that area.

“Enforcement is minimal if it exists at all,” Green said.

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In other words, the ordinance is on the books in name only.

And, given a tepid response in discussions with local law enforcement, prospects in Jackson County don’t look much better.

“In conversations with the Jackson County sheriff, it has been made clear that the sheriff’s office has no interest in enforcing any noise ordinance provisions addressing barking dogs,” Green said.

The health department, Green said, has indicated enforcing a barking dog ordinance is not consistent with its mission and would require considerable money for staff and an expanded animal shelter.

“This gives us to some extent an uphill road,” Green said, adding that his recommendation was to allow him to conduct more research and solicit public comment, which commissioners seemed to give tacit approval to his doing.

Six people from across the county spoke to commissioners about the problem.

Bill Armgard of the Norton community near Cashiers said a kennel opened in the neighborhood about six years ago.

“It’s not like we bought next door to an airport and are complaining about the noise,” he said. “Let me go on record as none of us are against dogs … We are opposed to the violation of our legal right for the use and enjoyment of our property without unreasonable interference from inconsiderate neighbors who permit dogs to bark 24 hours a day without any attempt to quiet them.”

Kathy Jardine of Webster said she’d also dealt with “the constant incessant barking” of neighbors’ dogs for years.

“I’m not talking about occasional barking,” she said. “This is hours of barking, day and night.”

Commissioners were generally sympathetic. Asked individually if they’d support a barking dog ordinance, all five indicated that they would.

“I think it needs to be addressed,” said Commissioner Mark Jones. “And, it’s not just one community. But, I think we need a little bit of time. The enforcement issues need to be addressed.”

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