An amendment to LA's barking dog ordinance should clear up what happens when one person's best friend becomes another's nuisance.
The amendment, approved at Tuesday's city council meeting, is designed to provide more definitive guidelines regarding barking dogs.
"Before, it was pretty subjective," said LA Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette. "Whatever bothered somebody was considered."
Under the ordinance amendment, a violation is defined as a dog barking continuously for 10 minutes or intermittently for 30 minutes in a three-hour period.
Owners of excessively barking dogs could face fines of $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second and $1,000 for a third if a Department of Animal Services hearing officer decides the pooch is barking too much.
"Dogs bark, that's what they do," Barnette said. "They're our family members, but there are people who are sensitive to the sound and don't want to be interrupted by barking dogs."
In an effort to speed the process once a complaint is received, hearings would be moved to the department's administration building. That should reduce some of the clerical work involved in conducting a hearing.
The ordinance also allows for flexibility when it comes to whether the dog stays at the residence. If the allegations are valid, a hearing officer can remove the dog from the home. The dog might be turned over to a shelter or placed in a home outside the city of Los Angeles, but not all cases warrant such a drastic change for the dog.
In some cases, it's the owner who needs some training.
"So, sometimes, hearing officers will renew (the permit) with terms and conditions," said Barnette. "Something like, the dog can't be outside after dark. We make every attempt to work with the dog owner to keep the dog in the home."
The amendment also ties a loose end in the law that basically meant owners of unlicensed dogs were treated more leniently that owners of licensed dogs. Under current law, the department is unable to conduct hearings in response to complaints involving unlicensed dogs.
The amended ordinance allows the department to conduct hearings, even if the dog does not have a valid license.
During the council's brief discussion of the ordinance amendment Tuesday, Councilman Richard Alarcon submitted to a motion to make sure there is a marketing plan in place so that dog owners know about the amended law.
The plan now goes before Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.