117. LA City Council Passes New Dog-Barking Law

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Noise. It gets into your head and under your skin. Too much noise can turn ordinary people into raging maniacs. All too-common noises in neighborhoods are the blaring TVs, blaring car radios, and barking dogs. Most cities have ordinances against excessive noise. Of course, if you complain about your neighbor's noise, your neighbor will hate you and start making more noise. So, many people try to ignore their inconsiderate neighbors. Finally, when they can take it no longer, they simply move.

The city council of Los Angeles recently came to the rescue of its residents—or seemed to. It passed a new ordinance: the owner of a dog that barks for 30 minutes straight will get a warning the first time a complaint is made. For a second complaint, the owner will pay a $100 fine or go to jail for a week maximum, or both. The council wrote no penalty concerning a third or fourth complaint. "Finally," said Zev Doheny, "we've passed a noise law with some teeth in it."

Of course, there are a few problems with the new law: How does a resident prove that a dog was barking for 30 minutes? Does he present an audio tape? With modern technology, couldn't that tape easily be "doctored" so that one minute of actual barking magically becomes 30 minutes? Couldn't a person tape just any old dog barking and then claim that it's his neighbor's dog doing all that barking? Do dogs have voiceprints, like humans have fingerprints? Will all dogs have to get "voice-printed?"

"There isn't one brain among the lot of them," complained the owner of a pet store when he heard about the council's new law. "Their 'solutions' are almost always worse than the problems themselves."


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