Dog barking rule due for July 20 hearing

Staff Writer

Dog barking rule due
for July 20 hearing
Staff Writer

HOWELL — The Township Council introduced an amendment to the so-called dog-barking ordinance that would make the law easier to enforce.

The proposed amendment to the ordinance which was adopted in January removes the limit on the duration of time a dog has to bark in order to be in violation of the nuisance ordinance.

Instead, the ordinance now states, "No person shall own, keep, harbor or maintain any dog which habitually barks or cries between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m." The amendment was introduced at the June 29 council meeting.

Township Attorney Thomas Gannon said the amendment was deliberately written to be non-specific.

"We’re basically leaving it up to the judge," Gannon said.

Councilman Juan Malave was alone in voting against the amendment’s introduction. He said he was voting no because, "I don’t want to hear it any more. That’s what dogs do, they bark."

Councilman Joseph M. DiBella said his vote in favor of the amendment’s introduction should not be taken as "indicative" of what his final vote will be on July 20 when the ordinance comes up for a public hearing and possible adoption.

The current ordinance establishes a window for the amount of time a dog can bark before it is deemed a public nuisance and in violation of township ordinance.

Now, dog owners face a municipal summons only if their dog "barks, howls or yelps for a period of more than 20 continuous minutes between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., or for a period of more than 15 continuous minutes between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m."

Continuous is defined in the ordinance as "uninterrupted, unbroken, not intermittent or occasional; so persistently repeated at short intervals as to constitute virtually an unbroken series."

The introduction of the amendment followed an ongoing entreaty by an Eagle Oaks Golf Course resident who told the council the stipulation of 15 minutes of continuous barking was making it impossible for him to seek relief from the courts with respect to the chronic barking of his next-door neighbor’s dog.

In fact, a memo from the police department to the township manager dated October 2003 stated that the proposed ordinance would be difficult to enforce.

In an April memo to Township Manager Bruce Davis, Gannon stated his suggestion that the township adopt "more general language" in its ordinance similar to that which is found in ordinances in Manalapan and Freehold Township regar-ding the same matter.

Gannon said in the memo that the change would "give the court better flexibility in deciding this matter and will avoid litigants in the future requesting specific ordinances to meet their specific needs."