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Dog Shrinks

DogAccording to the Wall Street Journal, Hawaii is emplying dog psychiatrists to help lower the volume .. on dog barking. Here is a short excerpt of the article:

Carl Oguss is trying to use psychology to reform a couple of scofflaws, who are meeting with him as part of a plea deal."No!" he shouts, jabbing a finger at the miscreants after they appear to snub his attempt to drum some sense into them. One of them, Kala, hangs her head. The other, Kamakani, gives a defiant response: "Woof!"

There's the problem. Local authorities have charged Kala and Kamakani with being "incessant barkers," an offense under a new law here on the Big Island. If the two Italian sheepdogs don't zip it, their owners face $575 in fines, and the dogs could be evicted from the neighborhood.

Dog counseling has been in demand in Hawaii County since early last year, when county commissioners passed an ordinance banning "barks, bays, cries, howls" that go on continuously for 10 minutes, or intermittently for 20 minutes within a half-hour.

Nuisance yapping is a problem everywhere. Los Angeles passed last year an antibarking law with fines up to $1,000. Two years ago, Centennial, Colo. passed an ordinance imposing fines up to $100 per violation on owners of dogs that bark more than 10 minutes.

This Pacific island needed a stronger bark-abeyance law, authorities here say, because it has a particular pooch-population problem. The average U.S. household has 1.7 dogs, says a 2007 American Veterinary Medical Association report. On the Big Island, where people use dogs for hunting wild pigs, many residents have at least five and some as many 30 dogs, says Debbie Crazatta, founder of the Kohala Animal Relocation and Education Service, which helps find homes for stray dogs.

Dogless islanders have long complained of dogs that bark around the clock. Jim Radovic says his neighbor's 10 dogs would serenade their block in Hilo, Hawaii, at all hours before the antibark law. "We got to the point we had two fans blasting next to our heads so we could go to sleep," says the 51-year-old emergency-room nurse.

Under previous law, officers had to time barking for 30 minutes and then give the owner an hour to quiet the hound. Police were usually too busy to stick around timing dog barks.

Some say the new law infringes on rights, human and canine. "It's nuts, man," says 49-year-old Clyde Wheatley, a bulldozer operator whose Rottweiler and Labrador have no barking violations. "To me, barking is good because it notifies you somebody's around who shouldn't be around."

Indeed, it is OK, under the new law, to bark if your owner is about to be attacked.

Donna Whitaker, executive director of the Hawaii Island Humane Society, says often a dog barks because it is bored. Dr. Oguss says sometimes a well-mannered mutt is egged into barking by another dog. One large dog, he found, was blowing his cool after hearing the Chihuahua next door yapping for hours. "A dog who is instigating by being rude to your dog is looking to start trouble," Mr. Oguss says.

But there may be a fundamental problem: Mr. Oguss suspects Kala and Kamakani bark unnecessarily because they are kept in an enclosure that is about 10,000 square feet part of the day with three goats. "There's very little for them to do," Mr. Oguss says. "Barking is their TV."



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