Note that names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent!!!
John Q Public
999 xxxxxx Blvd.
AnyPlace, FL 32999
The Honorable Michael D. Wanchick, County Administrator
500 San Sebastian View
St. Augustine, Florida 32084
St. Augustine, Florida 32084
RE: Revised noise ordinance. Sent via Certified Mail.
September 27, 2011
Dear Mr. Wanchick,
I am writing you today to inform you of several potential issues and problems I’ve found with the revised St. Johns County Noise Ordinance (Attached). Of particular interest is Section 5, Subsection J titled “Animals”. I believe the subsection in question raises the following issues:
1) It neglects noise victim’s right to peaceful use of his/her home. Refer to US Constitution Amendment 4. Specifically, having loud pet noises broadcast into the home for frequent and/or extended durations is not only a threat to health, it prevents the occupant from using their property for what they want, i.e. Sleep, relaxation, quiet conversations, anything requiring concentration, etc…
2) It neglects the noise victim’s right to equal protection of laws. Refer to US Constitution, Amendment 14. The 30 minute rule and multiple household rule represent a clear double standard when dealing with loud noises generated by pets. I am unable to find similar rules under any of the other subsections. Therefore, it appears that a vastly different standard is applied to pet owners as compared to the standard applied to fireworks enthusiasts or rap music aficionados.
3) It violates the Constitution of the State of Florida . Article II, Section 7 of the state constitution clearly states: Adequate provision shall be made by law for the abatement of .....excessive and unnecessary noise. Loud pet noises of any frequency and/or duration are typically of an unnecessary nature. For example, any household pet that creates loud noises for an extended period of more than a minute or two when there is not an emergency in progress is clearly generating unnecessary noise.
I propose the following changes to the County Noise Ordinance, section 5 subsection J titled “Animals”:
1) Remove the multiple household rule. To my knowledge, no other laws have this requirement: The requirement that multiple “vicitims” must step forward to trigger a citation is a clear violation of our right to equal protection. A single complainant submitting suitable “evidence”, i.e. a video with sound of the violation in question, should be sufficient to trigger a citation.
2) Reduce the duration. The duration of animal noise sufficient to trigger a citation should be reduced from 30 minutes to FIVE (5) minutes without a break of 30 seconds or more. Furthermore, video with sound should provide adequate evidence that a violation took place. Again, no household pet should be generating loud noises for more than a minute or two when there has been little or no real provocation. The reduced duration gives pet owners ample flexibility in controlling their pets.
3) Active enforcement. Police officers should actively cite owners of noisy and/or dangerous pets when on patrol or called to the pet owner’s location for another reason. In addition to protecting the rights of others, this should generate significant additional revenue for the county.
4) Provocation. I believe that it is the responsibility of pet owners to control their pets and keep them quiet in normal circumstances. The only exception(s) to the proposed changes I indicate above would be if there were a crime, medical emergency, fire, or some other similar emergency in progress on the property on which the animal is housed. For example, pets should be prevented from behaving in a loud, threatening manner towards passersby in the street or occupants of neighboring properties.
Mr. Wanchick, thank you very much for taking the time to read my letter. My only wish is that St. Johns County remain a great place to live for people AND animals!
If you wish to discuss this issue further, you and/or your staff should feel free to contact me via mail, phone or email as indicated above.
John Q Public
CC: County attorney Patrick McCormack
Attachments: St. Johns County Revised Noise Ordinance.