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Citizen’s arrest for a barking dog? It’s up for debate as SLO considers noisy animal rules

A seized dog from Atascadero being housed at the San Luis Obispo County Animal Services Center. The San Luis Obispo City Council will address its barking dog policy on Tuesday.
A seized dog from Atascadero being housed at the San Luis Obispo County Animal Services Center. The San Luis Obispo City Council will address its barking dog policy on Tuesday. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

A San Luis Obispo resident bothered by a neighbor’s barking dog has led the city to consider whether its rules around addressing animal noise complaints should be tweaked.

The complication arose after an annoyed resident in an isolated area of the city issued complaints that a neighbor’s dog habitually barks.

Owners of incessantly barking dogs must find a way to quiet their animal, or it is at risk of being impounded through the county’s Animal Services department.

The city’s existing policy, however, requires three letters from different neighbors verifying the nuisance. In this case, the incident couldn’t be resolved because there are no other neighbors surrounding the location that could attest to the alleged yapping, according to the city’s police department.

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“Since the violation could not be substantiated by two additional residences, County Animal Services was unwilling to take enforcement action against the responsible owner of the barking dog,” a staff report stated.

As such, the City Council will discuss Tuesday its policies on noisy animals in light of the unusual circumstance.

The question before the council will be whether to change municipal law and allow city police to begin enforcing noisy animal complaints instead of going through its contracted agreement with Animal Services, which the police department recommends against, saying it would be a drain on resources.

SLO police also noted that the county re-evaluated its process to come up with alternative approaches in such scenarios. Animal Services could send out an animal-control officer to assess the situation and make an independent judgment about whether to enforce nuisance law, according to the staff report.

Or, if the animal-control officer doesn’t deem enforcement necessary, the officer could provide the complaining neighbor with information on how to either file a civil nuisance complaint (to be handled by the court system) or assist with a citizen’s citation or even citizen’s arrest.

The discussion will take place toward the end of Tuesday’s council meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. at council chambers, 990 Palm St. The resident who made the complain nor the area of residence aren’t identified in the staff report, drafted by police department Capt. Jeff Smith.

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Nick Wilson: 805-781-7922, @NickWilsonTrib
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