Unicoi board removes barking dog provision

Brad Hicks • Mar 20, 2012 at 8:54 AM

An ordinance previously passed by the town of Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen has a little less bite following Monday’s regular meeting of the board.

By a 3-1 vote, the board approved the second and final reading of a measure to amend a previously passed ordinance governing dog ownership within the town’s limits. Monday’s approval of this measure effectively removes a section of the ordinance pertaining to barking dogs.

In 2010, the board passed a broad ordinance to regulate barking and at-large dogs in the town. The section of this ordinance relating to barking dogs made it unlawful for a Unicoi citizen to keep “any dog that regularly or habitually makes disturbing noises, including continued and repeated howling, barking, whining or any other utterances” that cause reasonable annoyance.

Violators of this ordinance, at the discretion of the enforcement officer, were subject to a $50 fine plus court costs for each violation.

Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch, who was not present at Monday’s meeting, said at last month’s board meeting, when the first reading of the amendment measure was approved, that officials had found the ordinance difficult to enforce. Lynch said he and Town Recorder Larry Rea had researched the issue and found difficulty in the enforcement of the barking dog section of the ordinance had to do with how spread out the town is and its rural setting.

Alderman Michael Phillips said Monday that he voted in favor of dropping the barking dogs section because he feels the town should not invade the privacy of its residents, particularly with Unicoi’s rural setting.

“The reason I voted for that is because when I ran (for alderman), I said ‘the town stays out of everybody’s business as much as possible,’ and that’s the reason I voted for that,” Phillips said.

Alderman Dwight Bennett, who cast the lone dissenting vote when the measure’s first reading was considered, once again cast the only vote against the removal of the barking dogs section. Although no citations for incessantly barking dogs have been issued since the ordinance was passed in 2010, Bennett said the section’s removal would limit enforcement should a situation arise when it may be necessary.

“It leaves an area open, that it’s not in black and white on a barking dog,” Bennett said.

While Alderman Mark Ramsey said he agreed with Bennett’s stance, he said having the regulation in place could draw the town into “he said/she said” situations on reports of barking dogs.

“We may have to revisit it, but for right now we haven’t had enough calls or enough complaints where I could vote ‘no’ on it,” Phillips said.

Other aspects of the town’s ordinance governing dog ownership, such as keeping animals restrained and prohibiting them from running at large, will remain in place.

In other business, the board:

n Approved the second and final reading of an ordinance to accept Marbleton Ridge Court as a public road.

n Approved a $500 contribution from the town to go to the Unicoi Raiders adult baseball team.

n Approved a resolution authorizing the application for funding through the Safe Routes to Schools program.

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