JEFFERSON-Larry Nelson is like a dog with a bone.
In October, the recent transplant appeared before the Ashe County Board of Commissioners to complain about the lack of an ordinance to address barking and unruly dogs.
He told elected officials that he has lost countless nights of sleep due to a few insubordinate canines.
Nelson said that “chronic, free range barking” of neighborhood dogs has seriously impacted his family’s quality of life and has left him restless after exhausting all legal options for recourse, he said in October.
“I wake up often to dogs not just barking for a few minutes, but for three hours at a time” Nelson previously told commissioners.
He came before the board to ask commissioners to amend the county’s animal ordinance to address these noisy canines.
He said he understands that “all dogs bark” from time-to-time, but the duration of the all night howling is simply unbearable.
“It’s had a serious quality of life impact,” Nelson told the board.
On one occasion, Nelson said neither he nor his family could go back to sleep.
“I have to close my windows,” Nelson said previously. “I can’t breathe in the fresh mountain air I moved here for. I have to stream music to block all out (the barking). My request is for you to consider adding to the ordinance to allow law enforcement to address these extreme situations. I’m not talking about a dog barking five or 10 minutes. I’m talking hours.”
As far as he can tell, Nelson said it appears his neighbors simply let their dogs run throughout the community freely. He said he owns hunting dogs and understands how dogs behave, but that this situation has surpassed all his patience.
“I work from home, so I can live anywhere I want,” said Nelson. “My wife did some research on where we wanted to live. We picked what we thought was the best balance. We have no regret on living here. We bought a gutted foreclosure and moved here in May. The quality of life here has been exceptional. I just have one issue that won’t go away.”
Nelson said he’s tried to investigate all of his options to correct the situation and was surprised to learn he has exhausted all avenues to metaphorically muzzle the dogs.
Commissioners came to an informal agreement to take a month to study the current ordinance to see what additions can be made before reconvening to further discuss the issue.
Since that October meeting, the issue of barking dogs has not become a recurring topic of discussion for the board, at least in public meetings.
That doesn’t mean Nelson is willing to go quietly in the night on the issue unlike the canine foes interrupting his tranquil mountain evenings.
As evident by a recent exchange of emails between commisisoners, which were found in the commissioners’ agenda packet for the March 20 meeting, Nelson’s doggedness might have paid off.
Commissioner William Sands wrote an email to the county manager’s office on Feb. 21 asking that Nelson be put on the agenda for an upcoming meeting. Sands also said that Nelson has emailed him several time on the matter.
He also provided a website – www.ncvaw.org/county-ordinances – that provides an overview of animal ordinances throughout the state.
How other counties address barking dogs
In neighboring Alleghany County, county officials developed a special section to address act deemed of public nuisance. According to the ordinance, any dog that habitually or repeatedly chases, snaps at, attacks, or barks at pedestrians, bicyclists or vehicles, or turns over garbage pails, or damages ornamental gardens, plant beds, or livestock, or a female dog which runs at large during the erotic stage of estrus is deemed a public nuisance.
If Nelson lived in Alleghany County, his concerns may be covered by existing laws. According to Section 7 or the ordinance, it shall be unlawful for any owner to permit his dog to run at large if such animal is reported to be creating a public nuisance and an enforcement officer determines after investigation that the reports are supported by sufficient evidence to establish this fact.
The brunt of Nelson’s complaint centers on unrestrained dogs that bark freely throughout the night.
Nearby Alexander County also has an enacted ordinance to address misbehaving dogs. Animals that would fall under this category would include dogs that exhibits acts of chasing, snapping or otherwise molesting pedestrians, bicyclists and motor vehicles. While the ordinance addresses dogs getting into or turning over garbage pails, cans or containers, no language directly addresses barking or loud dogs in this particular category.
As of now, Ashe County does have an ordinance in place that addresses dogs of nuisance. These would include dogs that snap or chase bicyclists and pedestrians. None of this language directly addressed barking dogs.
Gone to the dogs
Nelson’s complaint of barking dogs isn’t the first time commissioners were forced to contend with issues relating to animal control, particularly dogs.
Last winter, Ashe County became a household name within animal rights groups nationwide after a video of three beagles standing in alleged inhumane conditions went viral. County officials, however, determined that no abuse took place.
Reach Jesse Campbell at (336) 846-7164.