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Dog owner on noise ordinance

In a previous article published Dec. 3, The Herald reported that at the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors’ Nov. 13 meeting, the board voted to form a noise ordinance committee after a resident used the public comments portion of the board meeting to express grievances about a neighboring kennel of dogs barking late at night. Steve Lann, the owner of the dogs, feels that he has done everything possible to satisfy the complaints, and worries that a revision to the noise ordinance involving dog barking would be harmful to the community of hunters and dog owners.

At the Nov. 13 board meeting, Buckingham resident Karen Brown played an audio file recorded in the bedroom of her home on Buffalo Road. The clip, according to Brown, featured the sound of many dogs barking at 3 a.m.

Brown explained that the dog barking had been a recurring issue and that she had reached out to county employees regarding the barking dogs in the past, but had trouble getting her concerns addressed. She also read aloud a copy of the county’s noise ordinance, which does not include any restriction on dog barking. The decision was made by the board to form a noise ordinance committee in order to review the current ordinance and see if any policy changes needed to be made.

Lann owns 14 beagles ranging in ages from five to 13, and the land that the kennel resides on is owned by his ex-father-in-law. Lann cited that the location of the kennel has been home to dogs for at least half a century. “The previous landowner … he’s always had dogs there the whole time … The community has been filled with hunters and with dogs,” he highlighted.

Lann cited that Brown moved next door less than 10 years ago, and that she began to complain about hearing the beagles bark late at night.

“What’s disappointing is that when she came in, she knew exactly what she was moving into … I remember the very day she came there, and the realtor was showing her around. There was no wall up. At that point in time I actually had more dogs there. I had my ex brother-in-law’s dogs with mine, and when you’re feeding dogs they get really excited … They were barking profusely when she was looking at the property, and I said to myself, ‘Well, that’s probably a good thing,’ because she gets to understand, ‘Okay, this is where I’m moving. I’m not being made to buy this house, but I’m moving here.’”

Lann stated that Brown owns a small variety of farm animals including several horses, which he felt may encourage the beagles to bark. He cited grievances with some small animals wandering onto the property, and believed that Brown’s tending to the animals late at night may also agitate the dogs.

“Most of her complaints have come from the middle of the night, and there’s been times when I come back from different sporting events and it will be 1 or 2 a.m. and she’s out in the horse stables,” said Lann. “Keep in mind that I’ve got 14 dogs that are there. When you’re beating a pail or you’re making any kind of noise, those dogs think and believe that it’s time to be asleep, so when something gets to banging or making any kind of odd noise, again, they’re going to bark.”

Lann stated that he made several attempts to help alleviate Brown’s concerns, such as putting up a $600 wall to block his beagles’ view of Brown’s property. He also installed a radio that plays constantly to help block out noises and soothe the dogs.

Since the county’s involvement in the issue, Lann worries that an alteration to the noise ordinance would result in expensive fines and penalties that would harm not only him but the county’s many other hunters and dog owners.

“If the noise ordinance goes through and it does happen, in situations like this where they know that you can’t move (the dogs) and there’s nowhere else to take them, you’ve got to look out for the dogs themselves,” he stated. “They’ll come up with penalties, which usually means fines.”

Lann added that he spoke with representatives of the Humane Society and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), who explained that he would not be forced to move his dogs as long as they are well-maintained.

He also believes that there is a reason that the county’s current noise ordinance includes no section on dog barking.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find people that live in Buckingham County that have lived here their whole lives, that haven’t moved in here, that don’t have a dog,” he cited.

Lann also highlighted that he believes his differences with Brown may be an example of the increase in city residents moving to the rural county, and while he understands the desire to escape to a quieter and more peaceful countryside, it should not involve the longtime residents of the county bending to the requests of others.

“When you move in between two people and you start making those unusual noises, then those dogs that are typically there and people haven’t had any problems with them barking are now going to begin to bark.”

“When you come in and you buy two or three or four acres and you come in from the city and that’s a lot of land to you and you decide to make it a farm … There should be an ordinance on when you’re allowed to have a farm in your backyard. You should be required to have a certain amount of acreage or have to have some type of permit.”

Lann highlighted his belief that should the county alter its current noise ordinance to restrict dog barking, there may be immense backlash from not only the hunting and dog owning community, but animal’s rights organizations as well. He believes that the community, filled with hunting clubs and animal lovers, is prepared to give signatures and protest a noise ordinance restricting dog barking.

“We’re not going to put our dogs to sleep. I mean, what are we going to do with all of our dogs? We love our dogs. Me, I don’t have kids, but … I love them as though they’re my kids,” said Lann.