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Silverton issues $2,500 dog-barking ticket; fine far higher than those of other cities

Silverton police issued a $2,500 ticket to Colleen Nunn for "dog noise" on May 9.

A Silverton woman said she was shocked after police issued her a $2,500 ticket for a barking dog.

The police chief said the woman, Colleen Nunn, was warned repeatedly by neighbors and once by an officer. But KATU discovered the fine is extremely high compared to those of other local cities and counties.

The fine stems from a city ordinance in Silverton that was established in 1997.

Police Chief Jeff Fossholm said for any code violation that doesn't have a specific fine amount attached to it the standard fine is a maximum of $2,500. He said in cases like Nunn's and others, $2,500 is what officers are required to write on the ticket.

A man KATU is calling "Jim," who didn't want to publicly reveal his real name, lives 50 feet from Nunn's home on Norway Street.

"It's just non-stop and it gets aggravating," Jim said about the barking.

A KATU crew saw two muzzled dogs outside Nunn's home on Friday but Jim and neighbors in two other homes nearby said those dogs aren't the problem. It's a dog named Luke, which was kept inside Friday afternoon, that they said barks incessantly.

"The dog’s just been barking from the time she leaves in the morning until she gets home at night," said Jim.

Nunn, Luke’s owner, lives in the house with her boyfriend and daughter. She admits she’s been warned repeatedly.

"November 3rd I moved in," Nunn said. "Middle of November there was a note on my door from a neighbor saying, ‘Hey, your dogs are barking.’"

Nunn said she asked a veterinarian friend for advice and they tried putting the dogs on daily anti-anxiety medication. But about six weeks later, Nunn said a neighbor complained to her again.

"Since we had got another note we tried the shocking bark collars on the dog," Nunn said.

But in January, Nunn said she received yet another note from a neighbor and a courtesy warning from Silverton police.

"I asked my daughter, ‘cause she was home while I was at work," Nunn explained. "I said, ‘Hey, were the dogs out at all? I just want to be sure.’ She said, ‘No, the dogs were inside with me all day.’”

Still Nunn said they put muzzles on the dogs and didn’t hear anything until Tuesday when a Silverton officer wrote her a ticket.

“He said, ‘I just want to prepare you for the sticker shock.’ And I’m like, ‘OK,'" Nunn said. "And then he gave it to me and I’m like, ‘$2,500! I mean. ... I think it's outrageous. I think it's ridiculous!"

KATU discovered the fine is extremely high compared to those of other local cities and counties.

Officials said typical, first-time fines for excessive dog-barking amount to $50 in Marion County, $100 in Multnomah County, $125 in Woodburn, $250 in Salem and $250 to $350 in Clackamas County.

Maximum fines for repeat offenders in each municipality were also far below the first-time fine in Silverton.

When asked if he thought Nunn should be fined $2,500, Jim said, "That’s ridiculous. If she was charged $50, $100 or whatever (I'd approve), but $2,500 I think is a little uncalled for.”

Other neighbors who complained about Nunn's dog agreed the fine is excessive.

One neighbor who lives directly behind Nunn's house said the dog's barking doesn't bother her.

Fossholm said a municipal judge will ultimately decide the final amount of the fine. A court hearing is scheduled next month, which Nunn said she'll attend to explain her side of the story.

Fossholm said typically citizens wind up paying far less than $2,500 in excessive dog-barking cases. He said the city's policy was put in place to provide an incentive for residents to show up to court and resolve municipal code violations.

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