I am going to post this, even though I am ashamed I allowed my neighbors to even get this video of my dogs barking, because I have been so careful. I can only say I was Skyping with my band at the time of the barking, playing bass. And that this has never happened before or since, and even then this is just ten seconds over the five minute limit. And that the neighbors were clearly working hard to provoke my dogs to get this video.
But it might be useful to discuss. I had a hearing today, around this video:
Here are my notes:
It was just me, A (my partner), Animal Control officer (AC), a trainee, and the hearing officer in the room. We sat around a conference table and a recorder was running. We were sworn in, with R, the neighbor over the phone (is that even legal?).
First Animal Control presented their side which was quite cut and dry. He read the code and then said how he got the video and issued the citation per normal Animal Control practices. Then the hearing officer asked the neighbor a few questions, about how much my dogs barked and things like that, and then I got to ask them questions.
I asked each of them to tell me how long the video showed my dogs barking, start to finish, first to last bark. AC said five minutes and 42 seconds, R said five minutes and 44 seconds. I also asked R if he brought his dog out on the deck about a minute into the video. He said no. I said I would provide evidence that contradicted both R's and AC's statements.
Then I got my chance to talk. I went through the video submitted by the neighbor with my written annotations. The hearing officer had already noted previously during AC presentation that my dogs were quiet for almost a minute and then R went out the door to stir them up. I pointed out that he brought Nellie (his dog) out with him because he wanted to cause barking, and showed video proof of his dog's tail in the frame when she was on the deck with him. We watched that tail like six times. AC said that was a hand (very rudely). We said, no, that is way too low to be a hand and it looks and moves like a tail. The hearing officer watched closely and I think she agreed it was a tail, because she asked if R had a husky, but she did not say anything further.
The next point of contention was what R says about four minutes into the video. I hear "OK, too quiet". We listened a few times and could certainly hear "OK, too...." but AC belligerently kept saying that he was not saying "OK, too quiet" and that we could not prove that. The hearing officer didn't say much but did listen a few times to that segment.
The final minutes of the video I went over showed that I started bringing my dogs in about a minute and a half before five minutes were up- and I pointed out that only one dog was left in the yard at five minutes and that my bass playing stopped at 3:37 in the video, indicating I had stopped playing so I could bring the dogs in.
My main conclusion at the end was that the video only shows 5 minutes, 10 seconds of barking start to finish. The hearing officer paid close attention to that.
There was some issue with the video. We started watching the video and annotations on YouTube but then AC said that I must have manipulated the YouTube video so I said, sure, let's watch the original disc and I'll verbally go over the annotations. Which we did. AC later tried to argue that the video we watched at that time was manipulated but gave up when the hearing officer said we had watched the original video file and AC had no argument (like I said, not the brightest bulb). Then AC tried to argue that I had no right to upload the video to YouTube. I said that if he had a real issue there he could certainly bring it up with the police. I've looked into copyright laws, and I know I never signed anything saying I would keep that video private, and I obtained the video legally.
That was pretty much it for my case. In cross-examination AC said I made assumptions in my written annotations in the video that I couldn't support with evidence. I conceded that point, but it did not affect my main case. He went through my written annotations trying to pick holes in them- like saying that wasn't Nellie's tail and that R didn't say "OK, too quiet" but he was really stretching. AC was pretty blatantly trying to save face when he said he listened to the video with earphones and heard a bark at 5:40 (or thought he did). That was just a lie. There is no bark or anything even close. R had no explanation for claiming the barking lasted 5 minutes and 44 seconds when it clearly didn't.
AC then argued that 10 seconds over was still in violation. Then he was done and Andrew got a chance to speak.
Andrew mainly addressed a reasonable expectation of accuracy under Title 17. He clapped and then asked the hearing officer to tell him how many seconds had passed since the clap. He went on to argue that Title 17 should be interpreted to the minute, not the second, based on how the code is written (five minutes, not the equivalent number of seconds and not five minutes and zero seconds). He said we clearly start bringing in the dogs when they continue barking, and are making every effort to comply with the code. And that citing someone for 10 seconds over is well outside the intention of the code and excessive. It would be like a speeding ticket for going less than a mile over the speed limit.
We also went into the procedural issues behind a "Notice to Comply" because the code says you need to receive a Notice to Comply prior to a Notice of Violation, and that a Notice to Comply must include verification. We had a Notice to Comply way back in November, 2014. AC (not the smartest bulb) said that general practice is no verification, just a phone call complaint is enough, but then wiffle-waffled back and forth. He said we should have contested the Notice to Comply. I said there was no means to do so, and no explanation of how to do so on the Notice to Comply. AC muttered something, and then got confused and realized he was going nowhere. I think he started realizing that the AC had actually failed to follow the code and that we did in fact have a procedural issue.
To be clear, you do not get a Notice of Violation without a Notice to Comply, first. If the Notice to Comply can be based on just a phone call complaint from a neighbor, that is not adequate verification per the Code.
We had some back and forth with R and said we bring in the dogs every time they are barking- if we see the neighbors in the yard we bring them in right away. We understand the neighbors have every right to use their yard, or deck.
But it is unreasonable to cite someone for barking just 10 seconds over the limit. I asked AC how many times they'd issued a citation for 10 seconds over the five minute mark and he said "I have no idea". I said, "clearly, you have an idea, at least of how many barking dog violations you have issued this year," he said, "no idea". Obviously refusing to answer the question, but that isn't real relevant.
Final words from me were to ask the hearing officer to carefully watch the video with my annotations. That I understood my annotations may be colored with emotion, but that all the facts and times are correct. She seemed to listen to that.
Andrew said again that the expectation for accuracy is to the minute, not the second. And that we were clearly working to comply with the regulation.
Finally, after two and a half hours, it was over.