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Q: There isn't much more annoying than to be woken up in the middle of the night because a dog in the neighborhood keeps barking. I called the police department but they said there wasn't anything they could do. Can you elaborate?

A: The Robinson Police Department employs only one Animal Control Officer (ACO) and he works 40 hours a week. It isn't unusual for the police department to get calls about dogs after the ACO has gone home for the day. And, of course, the ACO is off nights, weekends, holidays, while he is attending training, is on vacation, and when he is off on sick leave. This leaves a lot of time when the ACO isn't available to the public.

The basic guideline for complaints about dogs is this, when the ACO is on-duty he will get to calls for service as soon as possible based upon the presence of danger and the order the call was received. Barking dogs are not a high priority call for service, though it is an important call for service.

Dangerous animal calls have priority over all other calls for service. If someone is in actual danger of being harmed or has just been harmed by an animal, a police officer will respond with the ACO. If the officer has to use deadly force to protect a citizen, then he is allowed to do so. The ACO can also take actions to try and capture the dangerous animal.

When the ACO is off-duty, calls regarding dangerous animals will result in the ACO being called to come back to work based upon the emergency. Usually an officer will respond to the call to verify the necessity for calling the ACO off-duty.

When the ACO is off-duty and the call does not involve a dangerous situation, several things can result depending upon the situation surrounding the call.

  • If the responding officer determines the situation is one that will not result in danger to citizens, the call will be recorded and the ACO will follow-up on the call the following work day.

  • If a barking dog is in a fenced yard, officers will attempt to make contact with the owners to have them take actions to quiet the dog. If the owner is not available, there is little an officer or the ACO can do at that time. The ACO can make contact with the owner at a later time to discuss their dog's  consistently barking.

  • If an owner is not available when their dog is barking, the witnessing neighbor can file a criminal charge against the owner in municipal court. The dog must actually be constantly barking at the time an officer arrives on the scene for a police officer to later file charges on the dog's owner. And, the complaining neighbor must be willing to testify in court about the dog's constant barking conduct. A single call about a barking dog does not mean that an officer will actually issue a citation.

  • If a barking dog is running loose, officers will attempt to find the owner only if the call is received before 10:00 p.m. Knocking on doors after 10:00 p.m. has often been found to be as annoying to (sleeping) neighbors as the barking dog is. Knocking on neighbors doors after 10:00 p.m. just seems to get people more upset.

  • Officers will not transport dogs away from the neighborhood in their patrol units. Dogs often become very anxious when placed in the confined space of the backseat of the patrol unit and have been known to rip the seats to shreds. They have also thrown up in the backseat. Most importantly, dogs have been known to become wildly dangerous in the backseat, placing the officer in extreme danger when trying to get the dog out of the seat later on.