COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

 

AGENDA TITLE:

Ordinance Amendment – Chapter 4, Animals and Fowl – Article IV, Animal Noise

 

 

SUBJECT/PROPOSAL/REQUEST:

Set public hearing to consider proposed ordinance which addresses animal noises.

 

 

STAFF CONTACT(S):

Messrs. Tucker, Elliot, Davis, and Miller; Ms. Lyttle

 

 

LEGAL REVIEW:   Yes

 

AGENDA DATE:

May 7, 2008

 

ACTION:     X          INFORMATION: 

 

CONSENT AGENDA:

  ACTION:             INFORMATION: 

 

 

ATTACHMENTS:   Yes

 

 

REVIEWED BY:

 

 

 

BACKGROUND:

Board members have recently received complaints regarding excessive dog barking.  Currently the Albemarle County Code does not regulate dog barking or other animal noises that disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of any person.  The Board previously considered adopting a barking dog ordinance on October 16, 1996.  After the public hearing, the Board unanimously declined to adopt the ordinance and advocated that such complaints be addressed through private civil actions.

 

The SPCA estimates that there are over 30,000 dogs in Albemarle County; however there were only 3,022 County dog licenses sold in 2007. The animal control officers handle approximately 3,600 calls for service each year and the types of complaints handled are broad and wide ranging. For example, the new dangerous dog registry requires animal control officers to closely monitor dogs that have been declared dangerous by the court. Also, there are an increasing number of complaints involving livestock and farm animals. Animal control officers are now being trained in equine investigations, which have proven to be complex and time consuming.

 

Currently there are three animal control officers assigned to the unit. Their work schedule provides coverage Monday through Sunday, but no night coverage after 6:00 p.m.  All animal related calls for service between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. are handled by patrol officers.

 

Fifty-four barking dog complaints were taken by the animal control officers in 2006, seventy-one in 2007, and twenty-eight to date in 2008.

  

 

STRATEGIC PLAN:

Goal 1.  Enhance the Quality of Life for all Albemarle County Residents.

Goal 4.  Effectively Manage the County’s Growth and Development.

 

 

DISCUSSION:

The draft ordinance amends the current Albemarle County Animal Ordinance by adding Article IV, Animal Noise, making it unlawful for the owner or custodian of an animal to harbor an animal which disturbs the peace and quiet of any person in the County through frequent, excessive and untimely sounds.  The proposed ordinance would not apply to any animal located on property zoned Rural Areas District of five acres or more, to any animal in an animal shelter or commercial kennel, or to sounds caused by livestock or poultry.  Based upon recommendations by the County’s animal control officers, the draft ordinance sets the duration of noise at thirty consecutive minutes in order for the noise to be deemed frequent and excessive.

 

The procedure for being charged with a violation of the ordinance is simple and direct, allowing the complainant to appear before the magistrate and swear out a summons.  Other localities, such as Spotsylvania County, Stafford County, and Prince William County require a more staff intensive process before a person is issued a summons for violating an animal noise ordinance.  These localities require at least two complaints of a noisy animal, with such complaints being made from persons from different households.  Additionally, the animal control officers in these localities must first investigate the complaint and provide a warning to the animal owner or custodian before a summons is issued.  The proposed ordinance authorizes the complainant to swear out a summons before the magistrate without the involvement of an animal control officer, which is a more direct process for the complainant to address the disturbance.

 

The proposed ordinance provides that the penalty for violation of this ordinance is a class 3 misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500.  The punishment in most other localities ranges from a fine of $100 to punishment as a class 3 or class 4 misdemeanor.  Finally, similar to the City of Charlottesville’s ordinance provisions, the draft ordinance provides that a third offense for the same dog in a one year period requires that the dog be removed from the areas of the County where the ordinance applies or be seized by animal control officers for appropriate disposition. 

 

 

BUDGET IMPACT:

Staff anticipates limited additional enforcement by animal control officers under the proposed ordinance and, therefore, there should not be a significant budget impact.

 

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

If the Board desires to move forward with the attached proposed ordinance, or a modification of the proposed ordinance, staff recommends that the Board authorize a public hearing for a June or July meeting date.

 

 

ATTACHMENTS

A - Draft Ordinance

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