After I retired from UCSD, I moved to Fallbrook, both to get away from the city noise of San Diego and to build new friendships for my “later years.”
Both of those have happened: I have made wonderful friends through AAUW and the Fallbrook Quilt Guild, and I no longer hear the traffic noises of the city; but alas, those noises have been replaced by the dulcet tones of 13 dogs, from the four properties that surround mine.
I am a veteran and was an Army nurse in Vietnam. I remember the first time I was under enemy fire. I rolled under my bed, pulled on my helmet and flak jacket, heart racing and head pounding.
Now, it’s the same reaction at 6:30 in the morning when the three dogs in the adjacent property start barking at my back fence. My heart pounds and I jump awake. Call me crazy for reacting to a past traumatic experience, but it’s real.
We each have a different reaction to “noise” – some people can tolerate the barking of dogs, while at the same time would not be able to tolerate a horn honking for hours on end. Barking dogs happen to be the noise that bothers me most, to the point that I’ve considered moving from Fallbrook.
I’ve spent the last three years begging my neighbors to talk to me, to enter into mediation, to consider having the dogs spend more time on the other side of their property (away from my fence), to consider putting bark collars on them.
The San Diego County Code Compliance folks have written to them, my lawyer has written to them, and the mediation team has written to them. They will not respond to any of these, and the dogs continue to bark.
Barking dogs should be a notification to the owners that there’s something amiss on the property. That’s not the case here: They bark for hours without drawing the attention of their owners.
I now live in a house that has double-paned windows and doors, sound-muffling curtains, thick vinyl on the windows, concrete barriers along the patio, and sound-canceling “white noise” machines; I wear sound-canceling headphones or earplugs for most of the day. I rarely go onto my patio, as that draws the attention of the dogs and they start to bark.
This letter is in no way meant to denigrate the San Diego County Code Compliance folks; they are doing the best they can with their hands tied by the local laws and regulations. They are prohibited from requiring owners to use bark collars, for example. And there are no “quiet times” that can be enforced.
When you call the Sheriff's office, your complaint will be added to the bottom of their work list for the day, and by the time they arrive, the barking may well have stopped.
I’ve called around to several communities in California to see how they handle nuisance barking, and some have novel approaches to the problem. Many house nuisance barking in the department of animal control, with officers who are trained specifically for resolving these issues. They do not have the burden of dealing with all code compliance issues.
One community has a special unit that goes to the home of the barking dogs and works with the owners to help control the problem. One community refers owners of barking dogs to training sessions for the animals (human and canine).
To date, the SD County Code Compliance folks have spent hours dealing with me and this problem; to what end? And at what cost?
The problem is the same: The dogs bark when and for how long they want. The owners still ignore them. I’m still unable to enjoy my patio. I’m still living in a cave of shuttered windows with white noise at night and noise-canceling headphones during the day.
I can’t possibly be the only one in rural San Diego county who is plagued by barking dogs. There must be a way to control nuisance barking.
If you have a similar problem, join me in contacting SD District 5 Supervisor Jim Desmond at [email protected] (or your county supervisor) or Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer, Planning & Development Services (PDS) at [email protected].
Suggest that new regulations be considered, that nuisance barking could be handled by animal control, that requiring bark collars may make sense in some cases, and that life is eminently more pleasurable when the environment supports quietude.