As a pet owner, you can be held legally responsible for your dog's behavior. Incessant barking can prevent neighbors from being comfortable within their own homes. A number of cities and counties in Florida have laws intended to encourage pet owners to keep their dog's barking from becoming a neighborhood nuisance.
The definition of nuisance barking varies depending on your location within Florida. Pinellas County considers a barking problem to be a dog who makes excessive noises with continued or repeated howling or barking. In Leon County "any animal which continuously barks, howls or otherwise disturbs the peace" is defined as being a nuisance animal. Some areas may not consider barking a nuisance unless it occurs within a specific time frame, but others have rules prohibiting this behavior regardless of the time of day.
The Complaint Process
Nuisance barking is typically an issue dealt with by your county's animal control department, though some areas require complaints be made through the sheriff's department during the hours when animal control is not open. Most animal control departments suggest that individuals who are being bothered by a nuisance pet first try handling the issue by speaking directly to the owner of the animal. If speaking to the owner fails to bring the desired results, the person who is being bothered by the barking can file an official complaint with animal control. Some animal control departments require the individual reporting the complaint fill out a specific affidavit. The affidavit asks for specific information from the complainant, including a time chart where the dog's barking activities should be recorded. Some counties, such as Pinellas County, require two affidavits be filed by two separate individuals before they will take action.
Handling Official Complaints
Once an official complaint has been filed, an animal control officer will come speak to the owner of the dog and ask them to remedy the barking problem. Most pet owners choose to take action to remedy the problem before the issue escalates past this point. If the owner does not comply with animal control's first request, they may be issued a citation, face an official fine or even have their animal taken away. Jail time is unlikely to occur unless the pet owner fails to pay the fines or refuses to show up for court when they have been ordered to do so. The specific cost of the fines vary depending on your location within Florida.
Solving the Problem
Santa Rosa County Animal Services recommends using proper training and regular interaction to prevent nuisance barking from occurring. If your dog's barking is becoming a nuisance, you need to figure out what is prompting his frequent barking and work with a dog trainer to help eliminate the behaviors. In severe cases, you may have to resort to housing your barking dog in an area where your neighbors cannot hear him.