Albemarle County Supervisors Give Dog Ordinance More Teeth

By: Matt Holmes; Mark Tenia Email
By: Matt Holmes; Mark Tenia Email

July 8, 2009

Albemarle County's Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday night to strengthen certain aspects of the county's animal ordinance, including reducing the burden for animal noise complaints and expanding the leash law.

After several hours of public comment, supervisors voted to change the language of the dog-barking ordinance they passed in 2008. Now, instead of the standard being that a dog "unreasonably disturbs the peace and quiet, comfort, or repose of any person," the noise of the animal only has to be "audible on the property of the complainant."

Another change impacts unattended dogs on property belonging to either the county or to someone other than their owners.

One change supervisors decided not to make to the animal ordinance has to do with the five-acre rural areas exception. Under last year's ordinance, property owners living on five acres or more were immune from animal noise complaints. After much debate, supervisors decided not to lift the exception on those rural property owners.

For some dog owners in Albemarle County, their pet's barking could cost them big bucks. The board of supervisors passed an ordinance last year, making it a misdemeanor for an owner's dog to bark for more than 30 minutes straight.

Right now, that does not cover owners on more than five acres of land and noises made by livestock. But officials are now looking into the possibility of repealing the ordinance or expanding it to the entire county, re-igniting a very noisy debate.

"I deal with two to three hours at times of dog barking," said James Dubovsky, a proponent of the ordinance. "Sometimes, it's in the daytime; sometimes, it's at night. When it's at night, that's when I experience my sleep deprivation."

"It's like me calling you 1 in the morning, then calling you 1:30 in the morning, and calling you 2 in the morning and expecting you not to respond to it," said Dubovsky.

"I just don't think the board should be expanding something that's already been shown that it doesn't work and hasn't been successful," said George Urban, an opponent of the ordinance.

Violators of the ordinance face up to a $500 fine.

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