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  1. #1
    jandd is offline Junior Member
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    City Won't Enforce Laws

    California

    My city has a noise ordinance against barking dogs. Complaints are supposed to go through a step-by-step process with Animal Control (which is under the Police Department) warning the dog owner and even offering help to the owner to solve the problem. Ultimately, if the problem remains unresolved, three households in the neighborhood must sign a petition to have Animal Control force the owner to comply with the law.

    Although a petition was submitted over two months ago, Animal Control has apparently done nothing about the problem, and seems resistant to taking action. That's in spite of the fact that there is a long history of documented problems of various kinds with the dogs.

    Is there any way to force the city to take action?
  2. #2
    CdwJava is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by jandd
    California

    My city has a noise ordinance against barking dogs. Complaints are supposed to go through a step-by-step process with Animal Control (which is under the Police Department) warning the dog owner and even offering help to the owner to solve the problem. Ultimately, if the problem remains unresolved, three households in the neighborhood must sign a petition to have Animal Control force the owner to comply with the law.

    Although a petition was submitted over two months ago, Animal Control has apparently done nothing about the problem, and seems resistant to taking action. That's in spite of the fact that there is a long history of documented problems of various kinds with the dogs.

    Is there any way to force the city to take action?
    You cannot force them to take action. Very often there are legal requirements that must be met to do anything at all about the problem. No city is going to take a person to court if they cannot support the charge as written. And many of these ordinances are very old and likely outdated. They may also contain elements that are not easily proven.

    Here are your options as I see them:

    (1) Go before the city council with your petition and your concerns, and demand they take action or explain why nothing has been done.

    (2) Talk to the head of the police department or animal control and find out why nothing has been done.

    (3) You and your neighbors can take the dog's owner to small claims court for the nuisance of the dog.

    (4) Continue to call on each and every violation until something is done.

    (5) Live with the problem.

    Ultimately, however, you cannot FORCE the city to do anything about it. They can take action against the dog owner as they see fit.

    - Carl
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

    "Make mine a double mocha ...
    And a croissant!"

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM
  3. #3
    jandd is offline Junior Member
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    Carl,

    Thank you for your response. I did talk to the supervisor at Animal Control in charge of handling the petition (three times) who said that his investigation of the problem indicated that it was severe. However, he also said that he had to talk to a police lieutenant about what action to take. So, the petitioners have apparently met the city's stiff requirements for enforcement, and that's why we expected some kind of action. Yet, no enforcement has taken place.

    Based on what you said, I take it that the only recourse to the city's apparent reluctance is to apply some kind of pressure, perhaps media attention or political, etc. But then, if legal recourse against the city isn't possible, it seems that every city would find it easier to ignore complaints rather than bother to enforce its ordinances. Since that doesn't seem to be commonly the case, I would think that a city must have some legal obligation to protect its citizens against violation of its ordinances, especially when the severity of the problem has been recognized. Is that not correct?
  4. #4
    CdwJava is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by jandd
    Based on what you said, I take it that the only recourse to the city's apparent reluctance is to apply some kind of pressure, perhaps media attention or political, etc.
    Yes. City managers, city councilmen, even police chiefs are political animals. They don't keep their jobs if people see them failing in their jobs. Pressure and attention can often light a fire where one needs to be lit.


    But then, if legal recourse against the city isn't possible, it seems that every city would find it easier to ignore complaints rather than bother to enforce its ordinances.
    When that happens people become unemployed. See above.


    Since that doesn't seem to be commonly the case, I would think that a city must have some legal obligation to protect its citizens against violation of its ordinances, especially when the severity of the problem has been recognized. Is that not correct?
    Not correct. They do NOT have a legal obligation to enforce the law to your satisfaction or even at all.

    - Carl
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

    "Make mine a double mocha ...
    And a croissant!"

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM
  5. #5
    jandd is offline Junior Member
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    Carl,

    Once again, thank you for your response. That's quite a useful lesson in how government enforcement of law actually works and what's required to make it effective. Since I've never had to become directly involved with local governing issues before, I had no idea, and I bet most others don't either. This will make a difference in how I work for solutions in the future.
  6. #6
    CdwJava is offline Senior Member
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    Like anything else, enforcement requires discretion. No city or political subdivision can afford to conduct 100% enforcement on all things. In CA there are too many laws for us to possibly do it.

    In my city, if we consistently enforced helmet laws for bicycling and skateboarding kids, we'd have lots of stored bikes and skateboards and I'd have to hire more officer to write those citations! So, we let it go to some extent because it is simply not feasible to provide complete enforcement.

    Very often, enforcement of city codes is a matter of political expediency. In a case like yours, it can be an expensive litigation issue if the perpetrator chooses to fight it, and it may be that your city has little confidence in the validity of their ordinance. Or, they just don't care. You have to make someone care ... or make it too hot for them to ignore it.

    - Carl
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

    "Make mine a double mocha ...
    And a croissant!"

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM
  7. #7
    itsacatsworld Guest
    If its a male dog getem a female, hell shut up quick just like a man.
  8. #8
    jandd is offline Junior Member
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    Carl,

    Your suggestion to "make it too hot for them to ignore it" might be the only solution in the long run. I don't want to present too many tedious details, but the situation in my neighborhood actually involves a two-front war which has been going on for more than a year.

    The dog issue had a long history of problems: 7 large dogs (4 over the legal limit), 2 to 3 of them running loose daily and threatening pedestrians and bicyclists, offensive odors and flies, and aggressive barking for as long as 5 hours continuously. After many months of animal control using delay tactics and doing little more than go through the motions of handling the problems, I asked the city manager to intervene. The result was forced removal of 4 dogs, partial curtailing of dogs running loose, and clean up. But the barking has continued so badly that neighbors sometimes scream at the dogs to shut up.

    The city's ordinance against barking dogs is sometimes called the "three household rule." Three households must sign a petition and be willing to appear in court. That can be an almost insurmountable obstacle. One source on the Internet stated that similar laws were passed throughout the country because of lobbying by dog products industries which wanted to make it very difficult to file a complaint against barking dogs which might discourage dog ownership. But as the petitioners in my neighborhood have discovered, even the petition can be ignored. The real problem is unwilling enforcement.

    A related problem is that the city has hired out many of its services to outside private businesses, and animal control is one of them. Its employees are often non-residents who seem far more sympathetic to problem dogs than to resident complaints.

    The other major issue in the neighborhood is a separate and more complex one, involving drug dealing, attempts to form a neighborhood gang, and the use of booming bass from vehicles around the clock to harass the neighborhood. That problem began within a few weeks of new neighbors moving in. I believe that the police are monitoring the drug activity. But calling police about the noise is useless, because of - once again - an unwillingness to enforce the noise ordinances. In spite of getting a copy of the ordinances, talking to the police department, and complaining to the city council, I still cannot get anyone to explain exactly what rules the police are following, and whether they can issue citations to violators (they never have). If a complaint is called in, the most the police will do is ask the violators to turn down the volume. Of course, the violators have learned that they can just ignore the police.

    Moreover, the police department seems to be adopting a discouraging policy of do-it-yourself enforcement. They claim that they can do nothing about the noise, and request, instead, that the complainant file a citizen's arrest warrant against each violator. Everyone I've talked to, including a city council member, as well as a former candidate for the council, has strongly cautioned against following that recommendation. Moreover, there are dozens of violators, including neighborhood visitors and passing vehicles, so that filing warrants is not even remotely practical, not to mention dangerous if gang members are involved.
  9. #9
    CdwJava is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by jandd
    The result was forced removal of 4 dogs, partial curtailing of dogs running loose, and clean up. But the barking has continued so badly that neighbors sometimes scream at the dogs to shut up.
    Well, at least you had a partial victory with the removal of the 4 dogs.


    The city's ordinance against barking dogs is sometimes called the "three household rule." Three households must sign a petition and be willing to appear in court.
    Mine has the same law. But we have chickens, roosters, and other domesticated animals and fowl included. Bein' in Ol' MacDonald country that I am ...


    That can be an almost insurmountable obstacle. One source on the Internet stated that similar laws were passed throughout the country because of lobbying by dog products industries which wanted to make it very difficult to file a complaint against barking dogs which might discourage dog ownership.
    More likely it was because it prevented nuisance complaints being used as a tool against neighbors that did not get along. If all it took was one person, then it would be easy to get back at a person you had a beef with. This way, if three people have a problem it is likely that the disturbance meets the "reasonable person" standard and is not simply a personality problem.


    The real problem is unwilling enforcement.
    Maybe. Or, that the elements of the offense have not been met. If the code says that the owner must willfully and maliciously permit or encourage the dogs to bark, then chances are it is a bad law that they cannot readily enforce.

    You really need to ask the powers that be why they have not done anything.


    A related problem is that the city has hired out many of its services to outside private businesses, and animal control is one of them.
    This is typical all over. Animal control issues are generally too expensive to take on for most any city.


    If a complaint is called in, the most the police will do is ask the violators to turn down the volume. Of course, the violators have learned that they can just ignore the police.
    Then you can demand a citizen's arrest for PC 415(2) - loud and unreasonable noise. You can sign the private person's arrest form and the perpetrator will either be cited and released or will be transported to jail (depending on local policy and the attitude of the suspect).

    If you do not wish to sign an arrest then all the police CAN do is tell them to turn it down.

    if the vehicle is operated on the public street, then they might be able to cite the driver for a violation of the vehicle code. Otherwise, unless there is a city ordinance that spells it out, all they can do is ask that it be turned down.

    Where I used to work we had an ordinance against any loud music from a vehicle heard more than 50' away - even if parked on private property ... so long as it was publicly accessable, we could cite the responsible party.


    They claim that they can do nothing about the noise, and request, instead, that the complainant file a citizen's arrest warrant against each violator.
    They are right. As a matter of law, our peace cannot be violated.


    Everyone I've talked to, including a city council member, as well as a former candidate for the council, has strongly cautioned against following that recommendation.
    Hence the reason for no enforcement. Without the complaint, or a vehicle moving on the street with the loud noise heard more than 50' away, there is nothing they can legally do.


    Moreover, there are dozens of violators, including neighborhood visitors and passing vehicles, so that filing warrants is not even remotely practical, not to mention dangerous if gang members are involved.
    While I understand your concerns, the police cannot go around breaking the law. They cannot issue a citation for a crime that they cannot be a party to - disturbing the peace. Without a complainant all they can do is ask for the music to be turned down.

    - Carl
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

    "Make mine a double mocha ...
    And a croissant!"

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM
  10. #10
    jandd is offline Junior Member
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    Carl,

    An update: animal control has told me that the city will be taking the dog owner to court. It might be that my recent e-mail to the city manager had some effect (although it's a trump card I don't want to overuse).

    As to the other issue of loud stereos and booming bass, especially in vehicles, the city council member who recommended against using the citizen's arrest warrant said that enforcement is the police department's duty and asked the department to enforce the law. However, the police chief admitted that no clear procedure had ever been drawn up (which explained why I've been repeatedly getting contradictory answers). But, as far as I know, there are still no procedures, and I can no longer find any city official who will answer questions about the lack of enforcement.

    I did a little research on the Internet about loud car stereos, and found that it's a national and world-wide problem, for which local governments are trying to find effective solutions. I can vouch for the claims of others that these augmented stereo systems can turn a neighborhood in what sounds like a bombardment zone. It's even worse when the violators use an organized hit-and-run technique of harassment against anyone who complains to police. That's also why the citizen's arrest warrant is an ineffective solution. What I'd like to see is adoption of methods similar to those used for enforcing speed laws, where police can operate on their own recognition that a violation has occurred without the need for a complainant.

    Your reference to "a vehicle moving on the street with the loud noise heard more than 50' away" sounds like the "plainly audible" standard, which I've been asking our city council to adopt. The Noise Consultancy site at [url]http://www.noiseconsultancy.com/code_tips.htm[/url] defines the standard as follows:

    "'Plainly audible' means any sound that can be detected by a person using his or her unaided hearing faculties. As an example, if the sound source under investigation is a portable or personal vehicular sound amplification or reproduction device, the enforcement officer need not determine the title of a song, specific words, or the artist performing the song. The detection of the rhythmic base component of the music is sufficient to constitute a plainly audible sound."

    Provision example:

    "Personal or commercial music amplification or reproduction equipment shall not be operated in such a manner that it is plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet in any direction from the operator between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. Between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m., sound from such equipment shall not be plainly audible at a distance of 25 feet in any direction from the operator. {Note: These distances may be a bit restrictive, as most cars that are overtly broadcasting can be heard at distances significantly exceeding 100 feet. You may choose to set the permissible audible distance at 100 feet daytime and 50 feet night time, which will allow for a reasonable amount of amplification.}"

    Another resource I've found to be very useful on the topic is the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing at:

    [url]http://www.popcenter.org/Problems/problem-car-stereos.htm[/url]
    Last edited by jandd; 05-15-2005 at 09:31 AM.
  11. #11
    CdwJava is offline Senior Member
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    The law as it currently is constituted in most states prevents the "peace" of a peace officer from being disturbed. Therefore a noise complaint has to come from a citizen. However, in CA the noise coming from a vehicle on a public street need only be audible for a distance of 50' and this requires no complainant - the officer can cite for this on his own.

    Unless the laws are changed in CA, noise from people's private property or vehicles parked there will be the problem of the reporting party and unable to be adequately addressed by the officer's own observation. What few local ordinances have addressed noise by distance or hours have largely found themselves successfully challenged in court due for a variety of reasons.

    - Carl
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

    "Make mine a double mocha ...
    And a croissant!"

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM
  12. #12
    Johnmelissa is offline Member
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    RV Next Door

    The code reads "any equipment, boats, RV's etc. that are not SCREENED are nuisances" and that "nuisances are unlawful." The city will not ENFORCE. Can I sue for performance or damages? The Mayor and Code Enforcement Director have been NEGLIGENT. Many neighbors will sign a removal and "unsightly" petition. How do I proceed? There has been MUCH suffering and trouble with the neighbors with the stored RV because the city won't enforce and RESOLVE this issue according to the code. The city allows neighbor to perpetrate an unlawful act.
  13. #13
    CdwJava is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnmelissa
    The code reads "any equipment, boats, RV's etc. that are not SCREENED are nuisances" and that "nuisances are unlawful." The city will not ENFORCE. Can I sue for performance or damages?
    Precisely what financial damages have you accrued by the city's failure to act?

    Plus, the standard under the law is that the government has no duty to protect you from harm absent the creation of "a special relationship". Unless you were told in writing that they would get rid o fthe neighbor's RV I doubt that any "special relationship" can be argued.

    You can certainly consult with a local attorney and see how much it would cost to sue, but the chances are you will pay more than you could possibly receive.

    The Mayor and Code Enforcement Director have been NEGLIGENT.
    How so? Not enforcing a municipal code is not "negligent".

    Many neighbors will sign a removal and "unsightly" petition. How do I proceed?
    Present the petition to the City Manager, contact the media about the issue, and speak before the City Council about the problem.

    There has been MUCH suffering and trouble with the neighbors with the stored RV because the city won't enforce and RESOLVE this issue according to the code. The city allows neighbor to perpetrate an unlawful act.
    There are many laws that are not regularly enforced for a variety of reasons. The failure to enforce a local code - or ANY law - is not grounds for a lawsuit.

    P.S. - This should be a seperate thread and not dovetailed on a long-since dead one. And, what state are you writing about?

    - Carl
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

    "Make mine a double mocha ...
    And a croissant!"

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM
  14. #14
    Johnmelissa is offline Member
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    RVin Sideyard

    $1,000,000 homes. RV in sideyard diminishes property values. Ask yourself if you'd buy a house with a 40' motorhome out its bedroom windows. No damage. Excuse me? The law say it is an unlawful nuisance. Mayor and code enforcement ignore the law. Their phrase is, "despite the law." An absolute state of war between neighbors exists because the city won't enforce the law as written or change or amend it. It neglected the enforcement and CAUSED law suits, Sheriff responses, emotional distress etc., etc. Incredibly, it just amended colapsible canopy law to outlaw them as it ignores the law to SCREEN equipment in side and back yards. Quantifiable negligence and damages.
  15. #15
    Johnmelissa is offline Member
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    $1,000,000 homes. RV in sideyard diminishes property values. Ask yourself if you'd buy a house with a 40' motorhome out its bedroom windows. No damage. Excuse me? The law says it is an unlawful nuisance. Mayor and code enforcement ignore the law. Their phrase is, "despite the law." An absolute state of war between neighbors exists because the city won't enforce the law as written or change or amend it. It neglected the enforcement and CAUSED law suits, Sheriff responses, emotional distress etc., etc. Incredibly, it just amended collapsible canopy law to outlaw them as it ignores the law to SCREEN equipment in side and back yards. Quantifiable negligence and damages.

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