Akron mayor offers thoughts on council’s barking dog debate

September 28, 2018

Akron mayor offers thoughts on council’s barking dog debate

AKRON, Ohio – Mayor Dan Horrigan said Friday that he hopes the needs of both pet owners and their neighbors are considered as City Council decides whether to increase penalties for barking dogs.

Contacted about the legislation by cleveland.com, Horrigan responded in an email that he has asked his staff to gather data that might help council in accessing the need for tougher penalties.

“I think the decision to escalate fines and increase jail time should be considered carefully and be data driven,” Horrigan wrote. “I’ve asked my staff to gather information on this issue to assure we are doing what is best for our community, considering both the needs of neighbors and pet-owners.”

Council members had scheduled a special meeting at noon Monday to clear up confusion about existing laws governing barking dogs. Ward 7 Councilman Donnie Kammer called for the information-gathering session to get clarity before City Council votes on tougher penalties that could go as high as six months in jail for repeat offenders.

Monday’s information-gathering session is scheduled for noon in the council’s conference chamber #1, 166 South High Street.

Earlier in the week, Ward 4 Councilman Russel Neal Jr. introduced legislation to raise the penalties because he said he was receiving an increasing number of complaints from residents in the ward who are confused about who to call about barking dogs.  

“There’s nothing our present situation can do to address the concerns I’m receiving,” Neal said.

Neal’s proposal would increase fines and penalties for nuisance barking from a minor misdemeanor with a $100 maximum fine to a fourth-degree misdemeanor with a $250 maximum fine and up to 30 days in jail.

During a City Council committee meeting this week, council members questioned existing regulations -- specifically whether one witness or two are required to file a complaint against a dog owner and whether laws extend to dogs barking from inside a house.

City Prosecutor Gert Wilms told the committee only one witness is needed, but witness credibility is the main factor in determining whether to issue citations.John Valle, the city’s director of neighborhood assistance, said the laws are the same whether the dog is barking inside or outside the house.

Kammer said he supports Neal’s legislation, but wants the fines and penalties increased even more.

Kammer asked the city’s Law Department to draw up new legislation that raises the fine to $250 for a first offense and $1,000 for a fourth offense. He also wants the jail time to start at 30 days for a first offense and be raised to six months for a fourth offense.

That legislation is expected to be presented on Monday to the committee.

“If Russ likes like it, he can put his name on it,” Kammer said.

At a Ward 7 meeting on Wednesday attended by 65 people, Kammer said residents made it clear they support increasing the penalties for barking dogs.

Kammer said he has mailed letters to the owners of barking dogs and that usually remedies the problem.

“I don’t want to put anybody in jail,” he said. “The main thing is we need to be more aggressive with the fines.”

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