ABINGDON, Va. — At its most recent meeting, the Washington County Board of Supervisors changed the county’s ordinance so that loud animal sounds will no longer count as noise violations.
The move came after a public hearing drew four speakers, including Robert and Anne Lough, who played a recording of their neighbors’ dogs barking during early morning hours.
Those dogs belong to Kenneth Rowe, who has battled neighbors in the Washington County courthouse in recent months in response to complaints that his dogs bark too loudly and too often.
After one woman spoke in favor of dropping animal sounds from the ordinance, the Loughs addressed the board, saying they had a rental unit on their property and that overnight guests had complained about the Rowe family’s dogs.
Robert Lough said he and his wife have been awakened by “annoying sounds” of the barking dogs at the Rowe residence.
On July 11, Robert Lough said the dogs barked for several hours during the early morning.
Anne Lough said the dogs have been “howling and screeching” and have sometimes barked incessantly. “They never stop.”
Robert Baker, the former owner of the Lough residence in the Green Spring community on Randolph Drive, said that removing dogs — or animal sounds — from the noise ordinance takes away the only recourse in case there is a noise violation.
“A noise violation can come in many forms,” Baker said.
The current ordinance limits noise-making “devices,” defined partly as animals whose sounds are “audible beyond the property boundary.” Thus, any animal that is audible over a certain decibel limit or between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. could be violating the ordinance if a complaint is filed. Fines run from $250 to $2,500, depending on the number and frequency of offenses.
Supervisor Randy Pennington said there could be problems trying to enforce the animal clause in such a rural area if animals remained in the language.
Speaking at an earlier board meeting in April, Christy Long of Abingdon questioned whether it was possible to humanely prevent a dog from barking. “A dog is not a device you can turn on and off,” she said.
In other business on Tuesday, in a joint meeting with the Washington County Park Authority, the Board of Supervisors discussed changes and plans for Washington County Park on South Holston Lake.
Park authority members noted plans to make the most scenic lakefront campsites available only on a temporary basis to allow more campers to enjoy the view and make sure that the sites can be vacated within 24 hours — in case of rising flood waters on the lake.
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