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Silencing barking dogs makes for quiet neighbors

• Oct 4, 2015 at 9:00 AM

A few years ago I wrote a column after receiving a call from a retiree in Carter County, who painfully described how his neighbors were making his life miserable. He said the folks who recently moved in next to him had dogs that barked almost constantly.

When he asked them politely to try to keep their dogs quiet while his sick wife tried to rest, the neighbors responded to his plea by playing loud music at all hours of the day and night.

When diplomacy failed, the man called the authorities to seek help. Unfortunately, local law enforcement officials told him that even though his neighbors were extremely rude, they hadn’t broken any laws.

I’ve heard many similar complaints over the years. Barking dogs, loud music and rude neighbors are problems that plague many communities. What do we do about annoying neighbors?

Even though Johnson City and other local governments have zoning ordinances, noise regulations and other laws on the books to address such anti-social behavior, they often come up short in dealing with truly rude people. Personal liberty often trumps peace and quiet.

Sometimes it is the silliest of things that creates bad blood between neighbors. Other times it is the very rules and regulations of civilization that can cause bitter differences of opinion. For example, some communities allow chickens in residential zones. Hens may not be a problem, but crowing roosters can sure perturb a neighborhood.

Barking dogs and cackling chickens don’t really bother me. I’m disturbed by the sound of gas-operated leaf blowers. Buy a rake, for goodness sake. A rake is quiet and friendly to the environment.

As I noted a few years back, residents often have to take matters into their own hands. While I’m not advocating vigilante justice, mind you, there are some high-tech gizmos out there that might help to keep the peace between neighbors.

One of the most favorite has been digital surveillance. Some residents have installed hidden cameras to catch neighbors who allow their pets to defecate on their lawns, or who pilfer their morning newspapers. Fencing can also make for good relations between neighbors, but you might want to call a licensed surveyor before they are installed.

Perhaps the most ingenious electronic device that promises to bring peace to many neighborhoods is a contraption made right here in Tennessee. As I informed readers back in 2007, Radio Systems of Knoxville has come up with a product that silences other people’s dogs emitting an ultrasonic pitch that humans can’t hear. The unit is cleverly disguised as a birdhouse. Go to store.petsafe.net/bark-control to learn more.

Personally, I’m hesitant to use such a device on an animal that — lacking proper supervision — is doing only what comes naturally.


Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at [email protected] Like him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/JCPressRobertHouk.