Excessive, continuous noises from animals are now prohibited everywhere in Albemarle County.
On Wednesday night, the county Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to change current regulations and extend noise restrictions to animals on properties zoned rural area that are five acres or greater. Scottsville District Supervisor Donna Price cast the dissenting vote.
Animals on properties zoned rural area that are five acres or greater used to be exempt from the ordinance, but the board was receiving complaints from rural-area residents about excessive dog barking.
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said rural residents should not have to endure excessive barking.
“The residents in these neighborhoods, many older rural neighborhoods with smaller lots who happen to be adjacent to a larger parcel, where the animals are kept right up at the property line or far away from the owners, puts them in a situation where they have no access for help,” she said.
Price said she was concerned about actions taken by the board that could affect the culture of the rural areas.
“Beyond just the hunting and the cultural aspect, however, I was very moved by several of the emails that I received as they related to the sense of security that individuals in the rural area have with regard to the protection that they feel from their dogs,” she said.
Mallek argued that the ordinance change is more about dogs left confined and alone that bark for hours.
“There is no protection element here. It’s just neglect,” Mallek said. “And it has consequences for the neighbors who live nearby.”
During public comment, county resident Sherry Buttrick, who has hunting dogs, said it was “unjust for the Board of Supervisors to intrude into traditional country life because there are a few neighborhood disputes, no matter how legitimate they may be.”
“This exemption was originally designed to take into consideration the difference between the country and the suburbs, and it should not be lifted,” she said. “And this board really needs to better differentiate between what is appropriate in the growth areas and what is appropriate in the rural areas.”
Albemarle police Lt. Terry Walls said there have not been a significant number of dog-barking charges in the county.
“I believe there was only one charge for a barking dog in a one-year period,” Walls said.
He said that when officers are called to a barking dog complaint, they also look for any underlying reasons a dog could be barking, such as a welfare or shelter issue.
After hearing concerns from hunt clubs, an exemption was added for dogs participating in organized game hunts, as well as hunt club kennels.
“What does not change is the requirement that the sound be excessive or continuous and … that sound has to continue for at least 30 consecutive minutes with no more than a five-continuous-minute lapse during that 30-minute period,” said County Attorney Greg Kamptner.
The restrictions do not apply to livestock or poultry.
Complaints about excessive barking won’t immediately penalize dogs or their owners.
Kamptner said the ordinance requires that either the police officer or the animal protection officer has to hear the violation or the complainant needs to make the case in front of the magistrate.