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All bark, no bite

Staff Writer | August 3, 2020 1:08 AM

Animal safety officers quell neighborhood nuisances

COEUR d’ALENE — Barking, howling, meowing, screeching and even loud talking — in the case of some birds — can be a community disturbance that hampers neighborhood relationships.

Coeur d’Alene Animal Control deals with issues such as wildlife entering urban areas, vicious dogs, and also regulates nuisance pets within city limits. These can be pet dogs, roosters, and even pet parrots and crows.

“Neglected or untrained dogs are the most common offenders,” said Jon Beamesderfer, one of three Animal Safety officers with Coeur d’Alene Police. “Usually solutions are simple,” he said, “training an animal, putting it inside, getting a barking collar, or just turning on music can quiet a dog. If the dog is home alone and it’s silent inside, then every sound can get it going, so music helps.”

Howling dogs and talkative birds are among the thousands of calls his department receives every year from neighbors who have tired of the dog next door.

But rarely does his office issue a citation.

Beamesderfer reports that they will typically write a couple warnings before a citation is issued.

“We want to work with people. So we set up a protocol, give advice, but at a certain point we may have to write one [a citation].”

An animal nuisance citation, $100, is an administrative ticket for city ordinance. Beamesderfer said about 300 citations were written in 2019 out of about 3,000 complaints.

Usually, a pet owner is aware that their animal is noisy, but in other cases, they are not. So, Beamesderfer asks for video or audio confirmation from the complaining party.

For example, a neighbor who believes the dog next door barks too much will record it and give it to the animal control officer.

“Very rarely, we will have a pet owner who doesn’t cooperate and if it’s bad and keeps going, we’ll issue a ticket for disturbing the peace, which is a misdemeanor,” he said.

There isn’t a definite amount of time a dog has to bark to warrant a warning or even a citation from the county.

Idaho Code defines a public nuisance as “Anything which is injurious to health, indecent, offensive to the senses, or … so to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property by the entire community or neighborhood, or by any considerable number of persons.” He said they have the authority to impound people’s dogs, but never do. “It’s just wrong,” Beamesderfer said.

Dogs get the attention, but cats, on the other hand, are “free spirits” per Idaho law, and are totally unregulated.

Chickens and birds are some of the most regulated. Roosters, for example, aren’t allowed in city limits.

“Some people end up with an accidental rooster. They buy chicks and can’t tell the sex and one of them grows up, and starts crowing.”