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Springettsbury Township is getting diplomatic about its residents' barking dogs.

Police officers could soon cite dog owners whose dogs bark continuously for 15 minutes. Board supervisors recently passed a draft ordinance, which includes fines up to $300.

If a complaint is made but there is no witness, then a police officer would have to remain at the residence where the dog is barking for 15 minutes to report the potential violation, township manager Ben Marchant said. Otherwise, the police department would vet a witness' account and could use it as the basis for a disturbance report. 

“One of the questions raised by one of our citizens was (what if) they call the police department, the police department comes out, the dog’s not barking anymore, but it’s been barking for 15 minutes continuously numerous times throughout the day, what can we do?” board Chairman Mark Swomley asked. “Nothing?”

According to the ordinance, a violation occurs when anyone keeps a dog outside or in an open-air enclosure, including a fenced yard, where its barking can disturb the quiet of a neighborhood. A disturbance is considered a dog barking, howling or making other loud noises continuously for more than 15 minutes at a time.

The first violation is a written warning from a police officer. A second violation within 30 days of a  written warning will be subject to a $50 fine. Each incident is considered a separate violation.

If a resident appeals the summary offense but is found guilty by a magisterial district judge, the resident will pay a fine not to exceed $300, plus court fees.

"I think a lot of this is going to come down to just the fact that there's an ordinance, and you can tell the person that there is an ordinance," Supervisor Blanda Nace said. "You would hope that the people would say, 'Oh, I didn't know that.' You can only hope that they'd say, 'I'm going to watch myself now.'"

Marchant said the draft ordinance will be on the Springettsbury Township Board of Supervisors agenda to consider in March. It will become effective five days after it's approved. 

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