A dog may be man's best friend but his bark can turn neighbors into enemies. It's happening a lot more these days. And even though cities and counties in Washington have laws against nuisance barking, they don't have much teeth.
In Seattle, where more people are getting dogs, and neighborhoods are getting more crowded, nuisance barking complaints have gone up by 15 percent over the last few years.
"We respond to 15,000 animal complaints every year, up to 3,000 of those are noise complaints," says Don Jordan, the director of the Seattle Animal Shelter.
He says many are repeat complaints and the animal control officer often ends up playing mediator.
"Many dog owners refuse to believe their dog's the one making the noise and think their neighbor isn't telling the truth. We have to do our best to determine what the facts are, and the circumstances behind the barking," he says.
All it takes is one complaint to get an animal control officer to come out. But more often than not, Jordan says the visit ends with a warning and that usually takes care of the problem. If it continues and there are more complaints, then the officer could issue a citation which carries a $109 fine.
The city of Seattle's ordinance on nuisance barking says it's against the law to allow an animal to make unreasonable noise. Unreasonable is defined as loud, frequent, repetitive or continuous.
Jordan admits it's subjective and that makes it a challenge to enforce.
"There's no decibel level, it doesn't specify a time of day or the duration of the barking, it's just when it gets to the point that it's bothering someonem then it's a problem," he says.
One of Denise Schwend's Northgate neighbors decided her dog's barking was a problem after she first rescued "Happy" from a shelter two years ago. She made the mistake of leaving the Border Collie in her backyard while her family went to a movie. When she returned, she found a nasty letter on her door.
It happened again this summer, but this time, the anonymous neighbor left a message in blue chalk all over her front porch, calling her dog terrible and saying he was barking incessantly.
"I understand he was angry but nobody ever came over. I wish this neighbor would've just talked to me in person," says Schwend.
Paula and Heidi Kreizinger of Bothell say they've suffered through several years of obnoxious barking by their neighbor's German Shepherd.
They live in unincorporated Snohomish County where the law says it's excessive if a dog barks for more than five minutes at a time, or for 10 minutes during any half hour period. Dogs have to be quiet between 10 p.m until 7 a.m.
They've tried talking to the dog's owner and have called animal control, but their misery continues.
"It just makes you crazy," Heidi Kreizinger says. "They leave the dog outside when they go out and he just barks, barks, barks all day."
The Seattle Animal Shelter's Don Jordan says whether you're the dog owner or the person who's bothered by the barking, it boils down to getting to know your neighbors and treating each other with respect.
"And realizing there are people who very well may love dogs, but just don't love the noise."
If you are dealing with a barking dog problem in Seattle, call Animal Control at (206) 386-PETS. Jordan says don't call 911 if it's a noise complaint and you're not in danger.