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Ralph Adams of Washington state (USA), borrowed heavily from the text of as he assembled the following presentation, which he delivered to the mayor and town council of his hometown of Edmonds. Most municipal bodies will allow any citizen who asks to do so, to address the council in similar fashion. And, of course, you can always send them this material in the form of a letter or an email. Maybe it is time for you to think about doing so.

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A Presentation that Can Serve Either as a Speech or a Letter

Dear Mayor and Members of the Council,

I am speaking (or writing) today in regard to our current animal control system, which I feel does not adequately serve the needs of the community.

As the population density here in Edmonds increases, we are seeing an epidemic increase in the number of dogs who bark continually, shattering the peaceful ambience of our community.

The harmful impact of chronic barking on the health and happiness of those who are forcibly exposed to it is well documented. Repetitive barking is more than an irritation; it creates friction among neighbors and imperils the health and well being of our citizens.

Sadly, many owners tend to ignore their barking dogs, as opposed to those who are victim to their endless noise. Having the sound of a barking dog force-fed into your living quarters can be a devastating, debilitating experience. Chronic barking also increases violence and rancor between neighbors when unworkable "anti-barking" laws force people to square off with their neighbors - and try to settle it themselves. These conflicts usually end badly and can even result in violence, mayhem and vandalism as retaliatory volleys are exchanged.

Local government needs to focus on adopting some enforceable laws and some aggressive anti-barking enforcement policies that are not dependent upon victim complaints to drive the process forward. It is the city's responsibility to protect victims. Our current system actually imperils them!

The current system requires the victim to persuade three people from three different neighboring households to join together in pursuing a legal case that is sure to be as contentious and upsetting as it is long and drawn-out.

Precious few people want to get involved in a big legal battle with their neighbor. So try as you may, the neighbors will almost never sign on for a thing like that. And that's the end of it, as we are denied legal protection based on how our neighbors choose to behave. Consequently, dog owners tend not to address barking problems because there is no penalty of any consequence for not doing it.

The key to ending the scourge of frequent barking is to write citations in an actively proactive way as a matter of standard operating procedure, every time a violation is observed. Parking control officers are often in an excellent position to observe barking dog violations. If they joined the regular police in writing barking citations, it would take us a long way toward solving the problem.

Additionally, a program should be created that insures responsible pet ownership. Classes should be offered to educate existing and prospective pet owners. The following program has been developed by Dr. Craig Mixon. Dr. Mixon is recognized as a leading authority on canine barking behavior and is also widely acknowledged as an expert on the impact of chronic barking on the health and happiness of those who are forcibly exposed to it. In addition, he is a leading figure in the worldwide movement to reform the canine management component of the animal control system. I am also forwarding a copy of this letter to him. Dr. Mixon writes:

"Owner education classes should be required of everyone applying for a dog-related license. No true dog lover ever wants to see a dog in the possession of an irresponsible person, and pre-licensing classes could take us a long way toward keeping that from happening.

The Centers for Disease Control has recommended dog owner education programs as a means of dealing with the nation's epidemic of dog bites. The idea is to take preemptive action against biting injuries by teaching people how to select the right dog, and how to train their dogs, as well as by spelling out the responsibilities that are incumbent upon those who keep dogs. By requiring prospective dog owners to attend such a class before licensing, we could make major inroads against both the biting and the barking epidemics in one fell swoop.

These classes should be made available to everyone applying for a dog-related license. At the very least, those who receive citations should be required to take classes in which they will learn what every responsible dog owner needs to know.

How many times have dogs end up euthanized because their owner-to-be bought a dog without knowing what he was getting into? If you really want a dog, you should acknowledge your obligations and learn how to handle the animal. If you don't care enough to learn what you need to know to do the job right, then, no doubt, all parties concerned will be better off if you just forgo dog ownership altogether

People attending owner education classes would learn about canine development. They would also learn all about selecting a dog, including the horrors of the puppy mills and the pitfalls of acquiring animals spawned in those dungeons of deprivation and suffering, which means we could shut down the puppy mills overnight through this simple measure. That alone is reason enough to require such courses.

The pre-licensing education class should be the time to tell perspective dog owners everything they need to know: All about care, housing and feeding; how to bark train a dog; where to purchase an anti barking collar; an overview of the process of obedience training and instruction on how to locate a professional trainer; which breeds are most amenable to obedience training; how to prevent aggressive behavior from developing; how to cope with aggressive behavior after it is established; how to treat common ailments; how to know when it's time to call a vet, and all about health insurance for dogs.

One should never have to debate with the owner of a noisy dog about whether or not the animal can be bark trained or whether that person has an obligation to keep his dog's barking in check. Local government should go over all that with the dog owner before a license is ever issued.

The owner education course would provide the instructor an opportunity to spell out the owner's obligations, and to get a written commitment from the potential owners to live up to those responsibilities. Through that process, we could ensure they are aware that they must provide medical care for their dogs, and that they know the extent of that liability, given the cost of canine medical services these days.

During the pre-license process, the city can record the licensee's phone number at work as well as those of friends or family who will be available to take immediate action if the city gets a complaint that the dog is behaving disruptively while the owner is not home. That way, when your neighbor's dog launches into barrages of frequent barking on any given day, you can phone the authorities who can then call the dog owners at work, or wherever, and tell them to go tend to the animal. Think of the countless hours of aggravation that could be avoided if local government would stop scapegoating the victims just long enough to take that much responsibility upon itself."

I believe that developing a new education-based animal control system coupled with a proactive enforcement policy that protects rather than encumbers victims will dramatically improve the quality of life and ambience here in Edmonds. These are core values that we cherish as residents of a place that prides itself as one of Washington's most appealing communities.

We are rightfully proud of our wonderfully unique community. Let's not let it go to the dogs. It is my understanding that this council has a public safety committee and I am submitting this letter for consideration by its members in hopes that we can work together towards making our community more livable. I would be happy to meet with the committee and contribute my efforts in this regard.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter

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This page is part of the Speeches component of the Background
portion of the Activist section of