In any of those instances, a complaint by a neighbor currently prompts no further action by the city.
Under the new system, which City Manager Pat Hentges said could be instituted administratively without further council action, the complaint would prompt a letter from the city to the property owner even if an officer doesn't verify the barking. A second complaint on a second occasion would prompt another letter, again spelling out the penalties the dog owner will face if it happens again.
If a subsequent complaint is made, an officer would attempt to verify that the dog is violating the city noise ordinance. If it is, a citation would be issued and a small fine would be imposed. A fourth complaint, also verified by an officer, would result in a misdemeanor fine of up to $1,000.
An officer must be involved at those stages because, if the dog owner contested the fine in court, due-process rules would necessitate officers being able to swear under oath that they observed the violation occurring.
"They have to hear the dog barking," Hentges said.
Warning letters from the city, however, don't need that level of evidentiary foundation. It's a technique Minneapolis uses, and those letters contain warnings of progressively larger fines of up to $2,000.
Although Hentges doubted that those gross-misdemeanor level fines would ultimately stand up in court, council members like the idea of getting the dog owner's attention early on.
"This way, at least something starts happening the first or second time," Councilwoman Karen Foreman said.
Mayor Eric Anderson, in a meeting last week with some Haynes Street residents, noted that Minneapolis defines a nuisance dog as one that has barked continuously for 20 minutes. Other cities go with five minutes. The Haynes Street residents quickly coalesced around the five-minute standard.