A fine for what now?

I was scrolling through Facebook the other day when I came across this post by Business Insider that was basically saying that barking dogs could start costing South Africans up to R20 000 in fines. And honestly? I haven’t stopped thinking about the absurdity of it all for days.

Can you imagine? Dear Ms Larter your dog is barking. We know it’s a dog and dogs bark but if you don’t stop it you’re going to have to pay 20K or spend two years in jail.

Sure…

Here’s the thing though: How the hell?

My dog actually does bark all day. Along with our direct neighbour’s dog and what sounds like probably about 12 other dogs in the neighbourhood. Once one of them gets started they all become very serious. And I couldn’t mind less. Because a.) dogs bark because they’re dogs and b.) they’re far more alert to what is going on around me than I am and I find that VERY helpful.

In fact, nothing irritates me more than listening to my daughter yell at the dogs to stop barking. They’re supposed to bark. It keeps us safe. Mostly it has so far kept us safe from nothing, sure. But still. It keeps us safe. And besides: how do I know that my barking dog has not already put off an intruder? I don’t.

Here is how it works at my place: My dogs basically patrol the garden and they let me know when there are people in the street. Or cows. Or goats. Or other dogs. Bark bark bark they say. To the people and the cows and the goats and the dogs just beyond the gates. But there’s a section on the side of my house where a fence marks the border between myself and my neighbour. My dogs don’t go there much. It’s a narrow space and a weak point security-wise. But you know what? I don’t have to worry because if someone were to scale the wall on that side of the property, the ever-vigilant Diego who lives next door would let me know ALL about it. I love Diego. And the other dogs in the neighbourhood? Well they let me know that there’s stuff going on in the distance. Thanks doggies. I appreciate your service.

Honestly I would rather have barking dogs than a neighbourhood that is quiet. Quiet means more targetable. We do live in South Africa, after all. Many of us have dogs purely as an added safety precaution.

Now I do get it. Barking dogs are a stress for some people. I understand this fully in that even though barking dogs are most definitely not a stress for me, I get very stressed by the sound of hooting cars. And for some reason my neighbourhood is FULL of hooting cars. Like seriously folks you don’t need to hoot just give a quick missed call or send a whatsapp! But no. Beep beep beep! Alas… I have to just put up with it. Even though humans are more capable of reasoning than dogs, I just have to make peace with the hooty hooters.

So I do get it. Some folks can’t handle it. But here’s the thing: If you have the “disability” of not being able to handle it then do something about it. Get noise cancelling headphones. Earplugs. Invest in some heavy metal music. Do you know what I do if there’s a party going on somewhere near me? I watch TV until it is finished. Something with guns usually suffices well.

We live in a world where we constantly make no room for people who have actual need of accessibility. And yet as a collective we have complained so much about barking dogs that the government is (supposedly) getting involved?

Maybe it’s all hyperbole? It’s Business Insider though. Surely that’s a reputable publication? They sound very above board. And yet when I open that article it’s filled with adverts for anti barking collars. You know. Something I can buy to help me avoid that R20k fine.

Sure…

So *phew* I can laugh and shrug it off and conclude that there’s a bit of an advertorial loophole happening here. No stress. Move on. I can’t though… Because I cannot help but wonder about who exactly this sort of threat is aimed at.  It says “South Africans” but we all know that’s misleading. We all know that a line is drawn between the poor and the rest of the country. The idea that someone living in an informal settlement might be fined for a barking dog at all is just ridiculous. When “lawmakers” decide on dog barking fines do they go “don’t stress if anyone from the xyz areas lays a complaint because that’s not who we’re trying to get to comply? That’s not who we’re talking about when we say “South Africans”. How am I supposed to not feel like this is a sort of pandering to uppity (white!)  middle class neighbours who have nothing better to do that tattle on the guy next door for having a noisy dog. Shame on you! How am I not supposed to feel massive shame myself when I realise that these sorts of decisions are never made with regards to “South Africans”. There’s an unspoken caveat. An exclusion of voices who seem deemed not to matter.

So such things make my mind wind all over the place. But perhaps mostly in this instance I have been thinking about the ramifications of such articles and wondering if it’s not bloody irresponsible to publish them. Do the publishers even consider such things? Do they think of responsibility?

I would certainly be hated in a newsroom I think. I’d be the one asking these questions. Is it ok to publish this with such a threatening spirit and now worry about the consequences? What if the threat of a 20k fine doesn’t make people figure out how to stop their dogs from barking (a seemingly impossible task for many I’m sure) so much as it makes them surrender their animals to their nearest shelter? Not a far fetched ramification in the least. Now the rescue centres (which in PE have been struggling to get their money from the government) become full to capacity. Now huge costs to either feed or euthanise become involved. How are we paying those costs? You can’t use the fine money from the barking dogs because those dogs have all been surrendered. Now what happens? Do we let all the dogs go? To roam the streets? 

Who pays the fines for homeless dogs?

This fine threat is actually the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.

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