Council considers 10-day grace period in proposed barking ordinance [Corrected]

In Laguna Niguel, a dog's bark may be not be worth the bite — if a proposed ordinance passes.

Concerned citizens gave their opinions Tuesday to the Laguna Niguel City Council about a proposed barking dog ordinance.

The new ordinance will add citations after three warnings. Mission Viejo, which handles animal services for Laguna Niguel and Aliso Viejo, has called the process successful and has never had to give more than one citation to stop the problem.

Citations for barking dogs will be issued after three warnings, not five as originally reported.

The citations would start at $100 and go up to $500.

The current approach offers mediation to neighbors if they cannot privately sort out barking dog issues.

If mediation is refused, the city leaves it to the complaining party to contemplate civil action against the dog owner.

Councilwoman Linda Lindholm asked if there could be a 10-day grace period between complaints. While most of the council agreed on the addition, Mayor Pro Tem Paul Glaab pointed out that only the most egregious dog owners are going to face the fines.

"It's for those people that won't exercise responsibility for their animals," he said.

He added that a 10-day grace period might mean more than a week of constant dog barking and that the council should consider those affected as well.

While a couple of residents disagreed, saying it should stay in the neighborhood, several residents came forward, advocating that a financial "bite" could be the ticket to effective enforcement.

"It gets pretty obnoxious when you have a dog barking for hours and hours on end," Mark Snider said.

He pointed out that the current process encourages neighbors to settle issues among themselves, and doesn't allow for the possibility of a negligent dog owner.

"It just makes sense," said Steve Bell, another speaker. "If it's not working, we need to put some bite in it."

Councilman Robert Ming pointed out that the ordinance is simply changing the final process for neighbors. They are encouraged to work it out independently; if that doesn't work and complaints persist, fines can be issued.

Ming referred to survey findings issued by Mission Viejo Animal Services, which noted that Mission Viejo has issued 18 citations inside city limits and one citation in Aliso Viejo in the last two years. In the same period, Laguna Niguel sent two cases to mediation, which is the current end of the line protocol for the city.

Ming pointed out it would only be those two cases that would be cited.

Gregory White, a resident, was initially against the ordinance but changed his mind by the end of the discussion, addressing the council again.

"I had presumed we'd immediately be involved in fines and citations," he said. "I think I'm in favor of this now."

The ordinance with the 10-day waiting period amendment will be on the Oct. 4 council agenda for consideration and adoption.

Twitter: @joannaclay

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