Woman gets 3 years' probation, $940 fine for barking dogs
by Jenna Davis - Jul. 15, 2009 12:29 PM
The Arizona Republic
Renee Maurer was sentenced to three years' probation and a $940 fine charge today in Phoenix Municipal Court for allowing her dogs to disturb the peace of her Northeast neighborhood.
Several neighbors filed a petition earlier this year to have Maurer prosecuted in court for her barking Pomeranian and miniature poodle.
Neighbors testified in court on Monday that the dogs have barked constantly for the last three years. Immediately following the sentencing, Maurer filed for appeal.
The Municipal Court Judge Cynthia Certa told Maurer she is not required to report to a probation officer, and the $940 will be reduced to $296 if the terms of her probation are completed successfully after the three years.
Other conditions of the probation included keeping Corky and Koo-Boosh, Maurers' two dogs, inside when she leaves, and putting bark collars on the dogs if they are outside for longer than 15 minutes.
Maurer said she was disappointed about the sentencing and her neighbors.
"I feel ostracized in my own community," said Maurer, adding that neighborhood relations will now be "extremely awkward and uncomfortable."
Certa also expressed sentiments about the situation.
"I feel bad," said Certa. "It's always the same-after an hour I have a new case and my life will go on. But these people have to live next door to each other."
Certa said she didn't want Maurer to face jail time, but thought her sentence was "appropriate," because "the case came down to being a good neighbor."
Certa said many barking-dog cases have gone through her courtroom in the past 10 years, but she couldn't give an exact number.
The maximum sentence for violating the barking-dog ordinance is six months in jail, a $2,500 fine, and a misdemeanor charge.
Municipal Court records show most fines are $300 or less, and there is no indication that anyone was ever sent to jail for owning a barking dog. Seventy-five dog owners were prosecuted in Phoenix last year.
2005 law in Phoenix states: "No person shall keep a dog within the city limits which is in the habit of barking or howling or disturbing the peace and quiet of any person within the city."
Maurer's predicament mirrors similar barking-dog conflicts across the Valley: Anxious or lonely dogs bark incessantly, causing tempers to flare and neighbors to use city noise ordinances.
After Maurer received a note about her dogs from an angry neighbor last year, she tried a training class and a bark-deterrent device for her dogs.
The notes persisted from Ilona Hirsch and her boyfriend Robert Shaw, neighbors Maurer had never met. Maurer and Shaw exchanged several phone calls about her dogs.
In February a police officer told Maurer that a criminal complaint had been filed against her.
Hirsch and Shaw had gathered signatures from five other neighbors who were also bothered by the dogs - a step required before criminal charges can be filed, city records show. Phoenix requires at least three signatures on a petition. Hirsch decline to comment on the case.
Later, two neighbors recalled their signatures after they realized Maurer was facing criminal charges.
Hirsch also had a log of times when the dogs were barking. The log, introduced as evidence in court, indicates Maurer's dogs barked for 7 1/2 hours at one time