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Dog Owners Express Outrage at Effort to Get Them to Quiet Their Dog
The Dallas Morning News - Dallas, Texas - Written by Kevin Krause - December 11, 2004
In the local Corvette car show circuit, Dixie Rose can be seen charming adults, dashing about with kids and schmoozing with contestants.
But to at least one neighbor living on her suburban Flower Mound Street, the diminutive, floppy-eared beagle is a menace.
Dixie has twice been ticketed for excessive barking by the Flower Mound Animal Services department, which was acting on anonymous complaints. A manager said the department has no choice but to investigate the complaints.
But the 4-year-old beagle's owners, David and Cheryl Deleranko, say overzealous officers are singling them out, based on what the couple believes are the harassments of a neighbor they've had run-ins with. The couple said they're taking their case to trial. "We could pay the ticket, but we'll get a ticket every other week," said Mrs. Deleranko, a member with her husband in the Lone Star Corvette Club in Denton. "It's extremely frustrating. I feel that I'm a target."
Animal Services officers have parked outside the Delerankos' house numerous times, listening for barking. The first ticket was issued in April 2003. It was dismissed a year later under terms of a plea deal, court records show.
Animal Services manager Christina Howard said that when her department gets a complaint, her officers go to the address and listen for about five minutes. A few barks are not enough to warrant a warning or ticket, she said. The dog must be barking continuously for several minutes.
"We sit, we listen. If we don't hear anything, we leave," she said.
Tickets are not normally given out for first offenses, she said.
Ms. Howard said there is no set limit on how often officers may go to a house before determining whether a complaint is valid. She said complaints about the Delerankos' dog date back to 2001. Since that time, 18 complaints have been called in, she said.
"We will continue to go out there as long as we keep getting complaints," she said.
The December Corvette club newsletter said Dixie "provides entertainment running around some of the shows" and "helps bring in the 'cute' votes." But back home, the normally hyper hound is indoors for most of the day and is forced to wear a special collar while outside that emits an electric shock whenever she barks.
Still, that didn't prevent the family from being cited a second time in October.
The Delerankos said an Animal Services officer had been staking them out for days, waiting 10 different times in front of their house on Rose Bluff Terrace to catch Dixie barking. When she went outside late one afternoon, Dixie began barking at a squirrel or bird. Daughter Lori, 14, said she got Dixie back indoors after chasing her and bribing her with food.
It wasn't soon enough.
"She just literally sat out there and waited for this dog to bark," Mr. Deleranko said about the officer. " Our dog was just let out to go to the bathroom."
Ms. Howard said her officer heard Dixie barking the entire time she was there.
Beagles were bred as hunting dogs. Dixie loves to chase and bark at squirrels and birds in the family's back yard, Mrs. Deleranko said. The dog also howls from time to time. But Mrs. Deleranko said other dogs on the street also bark.
"The only one they're targeting is Dixie," she said. "She's the one suffering." Christy Bennett, who has lived next door to the Delerankos off Morriss Road, south of FM1171, for about four years, said Dixie is a good neighbor.
"It's a little bitty thing. She's never bothered us," Ms. Bennett said. "I'm home often, and I never hear that dog."
The couple suspects a disgruntled neighbor has been calling in the complaints as payback for the Delerankos' earlier complaint against him on an unrelated matter.
No date has been set for trial. The couple has hired a lawyer but say their dispute is not with the $137 ticket, a Class C misdemeanor.
"They've been trying to catch this dog barking for months," said Mr. Deleranko, 51, a federal contracting agent. "It's unconscionable that they've held our dog to this standard and not others. It's an abuse of authority."
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Written by Craig
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