Are barking dogs a nuisance or irritating fact of life? Tampa takes another look

Council member Luis Viera proposed a review of the city's existing ordinance, which the police department says is often ineffective because dogs have stopped barking by the time officers arrive. [Times files (2016)]
Council member Luis Viera proposed a review of the city's existing ordinance, which the police department says is often ineffective because dogs have stopped barking by the time officers arrive. [Times files (2016)]
Published February 6
Updated February 6

Are barking dogs an irritating fact of life or a nuisance?

The Tampa City Council took up the issue recently, discussing whether to emulate a Hillsborough County ordinance that allows residents to alert authorities online, with recorded evidence of annoying animals.

Council member Luis Viera proposed a review of the city's existing ordinance, which the police department says is often ineffective because dogs have stopped barking by the time officers arrive.

The courts have mediation and diversion policies in place as well, said assistant police chief Elias Vazquez.

The city ordinance, which dates to 1977, lacks clarity in its definitions and procedures, said Viera, who earlier told the Tampa Bay Times that he had received some complaints from the Fowler Avenue and north Tampa parts of his district.

Hillsborough County passed a new ordinance in May that allows an a single notarized affidavit accompanied by a time stamped video to be submitted to the county's pet resource center. The Hillsborough County sheriff's office and the Hillsborough State Attorney's offices will enforce violations, which are a misdemeanor carrying penalties of up to $500 or 60 days in jail.

Tampa's ordinance doesn't have that kind of clearly defined scope, Viera said.

"That vagueness can give rise to a lot of petty disputes," he said at the council's Feb. 1 meeting.

Council member Frank Reddick wasn't buying it.

"This is ridiculous," Reddick said. "I don't want officers chasing barking dogs. That doesn't make any sense."

Would the ordinance cover other animals besides dogs? Reddick asked.

When told that the current law doesn't specify animals, Reddick asked if "growling pigs" would be subject to the ordinance.

"Where is our common sense?" Reddick said.

Barking dogs may be a part of life, but they can lead to disputes, said council member Charlie Miranda.

"People get upset about that. A lot of people do," said Miranda.

The council decided to discuss the issue further at a March 22 workshop.

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