Monday, March 17, 2008

Bark Bark Bark Bark

For the second time recently I read a news article regarding a person charged with animal cruelty because they tried to or successfully poisoned or otherwise harmed someone's dog.

This entry is not to advocate such behavior. See that word "not?" Yes, I thought you did.

However, I am going to explain that behavior, because no matter what article I've read, it always makes the person involved seem like a chronic complainer or nutjob who went off the deep end.

To you dog owners out there: NOT EVERYONE LIKES TO HEAR YOUR DOG BARK! Just like people who have adjusted to perfumes, there are people who are either not aware of, not home for, or simply don't care whether their's or their neighbor's dog is barking. However, there are people who do. There is no excuse for your dog to be outside barking repeatedly. It is annoying, at least to some people, is simply unnecessary, and is mistreating the dog. A properly trained dog who is cared for and given the proper attention will not be outside barking. Plain and simple. Just like with children, if you don't have the time and/or resources to properly train and give time to your dog, then don't get a dog! Dogs are pack animals that want to be around members of their pack (that means inside the house, because that's where you are).

Sound travels. Dog barking does as well - several houses away. While you are at work, there are people in the neighborhood who are home because they work from home, are on vacation, are out sick, or for some reason you don't need to know about. So if you go off and leave your dog out in the yard when you're not home, and that dog barks all day, you are going to be bothering someone.

So here are some of the excuses from dog owners about this, and my response:
  1. Comment: "My dog's barking keeps intruders away."
    Response: So does my alarm system, and you don't hear the siren blasting on and off all day. If you do, there are laws that require me to promptly fix it. A dog that barks constantly or at anyone who is passing by your house is not a crime deterrent. Just like car alarms that go off when the wind blows, people start to see the barking as an annoyance and anyone casing your house will know that.
  2. Comment: "Dogs bark."
    Response: So? Animals and people do lots of things that are considered annoyances in certain contexts. Dogs do not bark instinctively just to hear themselves bark. Like any other behavior, there is a reason why this is happening, and you may be disappointed to know that the reason may possibly be that you are not giving that domesticated dog a suitable living environment.
  3. Comment: "Well, the cats in the neighborhood yowl and spray/shit all over everything."
    Response: Two wrongs do not make a right. Domestic cats do not belong running around outdoors unsupervised either. If a cat is yowling or spraying it is either trying to assert its territory, or it is in heat because it was not spayed/neutered. Cats are frequently the target of abuse as well, and just as dog owners should be responsible so too should cat owners. In all cases, animal owners are responsible for cleaning up after their pets. Cats usually poop in places where there's loose dirt (not in the lawn, usually) - like the garden. Stray cats can create a bit of a problem, admittedly, but that doesn't justify irresponsible dog ownership.
  4. Comment: "My next door neighbors don't care if my dog barks."
    Response: If you live in suburban America, then it doesn't really matter. While your immediate neighbors may not care, everyone lives close enough together where you will most certainly be bothering someone, even someone several houses away. Again, dogs that frequently bark are not happy dogs. You are both irritating at least one of your neighbors and neglecting the dog. Your next door neighbors cannot justify your actions.
  5. Comment: "Why don't you just soundproof your home?"
    Response: That is actually a good idea, but one that is not trivial to do. Barking seems to be among those types of sounds that penetrate all but the best of windows and doors. You're talking about tens of thousands of dollars in renovation costs that may or may not actually be effective. It still doesn't allow the neighbors to peacefully use their yard, and still isn't being a responsible pet owner.
To add insult to injury, in most cities if someone is having a problem with a barking dog and an unresponsive neighbor, they must bring the neighbor into court. Even though the barking can be considered a code violation, the burden is on the person with the trouble to both prove there is a problem and then file suit against the person. The legal system is already overburdened, and it's no wonder that judges hear these complaints and want them out of the courtroom as soon as possible.

So while "vigilante justice" is not right (especially when it involves animal cruelty), the dog owners and the legal system itself drives people to desperate measures. Except for the real honest-to-goodness nutjobs who just hate animals, I seriously doubt that the people in the news stories who poisoned/harmed their neighbor's dog set out to do that. So while I do believe that those people must take responsibility for their action, I do also believe that the dog owner also assumes some of that responsibility as well. It is their lack of responsibility to be a good pet owner that created the problem to begin with.

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