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Akron city council members push back on jail time for owners of barking dogs

Posted at 5:38 PM, Oct 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-01 18:09:37-04

Some Akron city council members are pushing back against a proposal that could land dog owners in jail if their pets bark excessively.

During a special council meeting Monday afternoon, a proposed ordinance introduced by Councilman Russ Neal was discussed for 30 minutes.

Akron residents will have a chance to voice their opinions at a council meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday.

Neal said he heard from several residents who complained they were losing sleep over dogs constantly barking in neighborhoods.

"People who are affected by this want to see something done. I didn't know that this was this big of an issue," Neal said. "I have literally received calls from as far away as Los Angeles on this issue."

Barking dogs is currently a minor misdemeanor in Akron, punishable by a $100 fine. The animal warden said a dog has to bark at least 20 minutes outside for it to be a possible violation.

Neal wants the ordinance changed to a fourth-degree misdemeanor which could carry a $250 fine and up to 30 days in jail.

Councilwoman Tara Samples said she has heard from dog rescuers who fear owners will dump dogs if they're worried about jail time for barking.

Samples also said it's not logical to lock dog owners up when other people are not going to jail for more serious crimes-- like having weapons under disability-- and the facility is already overcrowded.

"I think all of us are going to have opposition in our wards with the 30 days. It's something we shouldn't even put into play," Samples said.

Neal said he doesn't want jail time for dog owners either, but the language for a fourth-degree misdemeanor lists it as a possibility.

"I trust that our judges would use discernment and understand it's the fine that we really want not the jail time," he said.

Councilwoman Veronica Sims stressed more discussion was needed on the issue.

"I understood it to be a soft piece of legislation and that we wanted to be open for conversation, so I don't think that jail time at least was written in stone," Sims said.

This year, Akron's 311 system has received 172 dog barking complaints. City Prosecutor Gertrude Wilms said, under the current ordinance, only seven cases have made it to court over the past five years, resulting in five convictions.

Akron resident Becca Brown, who is a dog owner and sitter, supports the idea of tougher penalties in extreme cases.

"When you hear a dog barking all day long, not only is that dog in distress, number one, but it's distressing for people to listen to that," Brown said. "I can see where people are on both sides of the fence. I get that, but there needs to be something done."

Eddie Milton, another Akron resident, owns three dogs and feels possible jail time for owners is ridiculous.

"Just increase the tickets instead of putting somebody in jail just for their barking dog," Milton said. "Dogs are gonna bark regardless of what you do."