Alex Lacey: Taking the Teeth Out of the Bark

Chronic and repetitive dog barking unnerves me. It always has and it probably always will………It’s the kind of sound that no matter what, I can’t tune out, block out, or just plain ignore. Earplugs, double paned windows and noise reducing machines never work. It’s like the sound permeates my being and enters into my body, mind and spirit……..Bombarded by repetitive and chronic barking, I lose my ability to focus, become agitated, get angry and  my guts feel tight and all knotted up.  I’m sure that my blood pressure is affected along with a rapid heartbeat. And then there’s the accompanied sense of impotency, because I have no control over whether the neighbor will or will not take responsibility and control his or hers animal’s behavior. Leaving home doesn’t really help as I find that I carry the anguish with me and returning home I worry that the barking will start again if it isn’t already. It’s really a vicious cycle. 

So, when I read that the World Health Organization has identified noise as a debilitating toxin with the potential to devastate health, I felt understood and my reaction to the noise intrusion was validated, acknowledged and legitimized. 

The problem of nuisance barking dogs was the topic of this week’s KOWS 107.3FM’s Wise Woman Storytime.  I actually became acquainted with my guest Alexia Lacey when a friend directed me to the survey she was conducting on a local internet bulletin board. Alex was gathering information and opinions from our west Sonoma County community on issues related to barking dogs. 

Having just bought and moved into her first home – her sanctuary and lifelong dream come true -Alex had a rude awakening. Exhausted and exhilarated, her first night”s sleep was interrupted by her neighbor’s barking dog which was not an anomaly, but as she would soon find out, was a regular pattern -day and night. The dream of living peacefully and quietly in her new home was to become her worst nightmare. When the neighbor not only refused to work with Alex for an amicable solution to the problem and instead became hostile and belligerent, Alex turned to the Sonoma County Animal Control for help.  

That is when Alex came face to face with a legal system that fails to protect innocent victims from irresponsible pet owners. She discovered a confusing definition of nuisance barking and a noise law that was vague and ineffectually phrased. She learned that the law favored the perpetrator and placed undue burden on the victim. Citations and legal consequences were highly unlikely because the complaints were difficult to prove and unenforceable by an understaffed Animal Control Agency. 

Alex uncovered one of the dirty little secrets of Sonoma County – an epidemic of nuisance barking complaints and no laws to effectively manage and control the problem.

For the past 3 years, under the constant duress of the ever present noise intrusion, Alex Lacey has worked tirelessly to bring peace to her home and to the lives of others whose lives are impacted by thoughtless, inconsiderate and yes, inhumane pet owners. Her personal commitment to fix our broken Animal Control system has included; extensive research on effective county and municipal policies that have shown high rates of success in eradicating the problem when complaints are filed; the creation, compilation of data  and summary of a survey of west Sonoma County residents that was submitted to Animal Control; and a detailed document of the issues residents of the county face, a clear and concise definition of nuisance barking and recommendations on the implementation of procedures, policies and laws that hold pet owners accountable. 

My goal in creating Wise Woman Storytime is to put the spotlight on older women; to give them a platform to  share their stories; and to highlight what a better world it is because of who they are and the difference they make.  Alexia Lacey is one such woman and in the next 12 months of so I plan to have her back on the show to tell us how well the new nuisance barking policies are working in Sonoma County.  Thanks to her.   

By the way, check out this great website called Barking Dogs. It’s  an excellent resource for those who want more information, resources and help. 

The link to the show is below….

 By Roberta Teller