Dog trainer and kennel owner Doug Leaf. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance)

Langley kennel owner goes to court over tickets for barking dogs

A judge threw the decision back to the Township for a new ruling.

A Langley kennel owner is waiting to hear whether he’ll be slapped with fines for barking dogs after a back-and-forth legal battle with Langley Township.

“We went through that dog and pony show again,” said Doug Leaf, the owner of Top Dog Training.

Leaf has raised and trained dogs for films and security roles at his South Langley acreage since 2001.

In 2016 a neighbour complained to the Township about dogs barking.

Leaf said he received several $200 tickets. He fought the first two tickets, but an adjudicator who oversees bylaw disputes found he should pay. Leaf then appealed that decision and asked for a judicial review by a B.C. Supreme Court judge – and won.

Justice Trevor Armstrong ruled that the adjudicator should have considered Leaf’s efforts to keep his dogs’ noise under control, as required by the bylaws.

“In this case, the adjudicator did not address the efforts made by the petitioner to ameliorate dog noise,”Armstrong wrote in his ruling.

Armstrong noted Leaf’s evidence suggested multiple efforts to mask the noise of barking dogs, including keeping the dogs indoors from 10:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., regular exercise and training, moving louder dogs farther away from neighbours, and planting numerous trees, bushes, and shrubs around the kennel and property perimeter to mask noise.

The tickets were sent back to the adjudicator to reconsider, and Leaf went through the process again on Tuesday.

“Not at all optimistic,” he said of his hopes for this round. “In effect, we’ve gone full circle.”

He said he plans to appeal to the courts again if the ruling goes against him. He expects to hear from the adjudicator by early next week.

Leaf argued in court that the rules are so vague that they could ban anyone from running a legal kennel in the Township. Dogs will bark sometimes, he said.

The Township said it went through a normal process for a bylaw complaint, and noted that operating a kennel does not exempt dog owners from the requirement to follow noise bylaws and rules about barking dogs.

“In this case, as set out in the evidence before the adjudicator and the Supreme Court of British Columbia, the Township received multiple complaints, from more than one complainant, beginning in January 2016 about disruptive barking for long periods of time and at night from the kennel owner’s property,” said a statement from Ruby Senghera, manager of the Township’s bylaw department. “Staff conducted an investigation that confirmed the non-compliance, sent noise warning letters to the business owner, and ultimately, issued tickets to the business owner.”

The Township also noted that the judge didn’t invalidate the noise bylaws.

Leaf said his only previous barking complaint, around 2007/08, was handled differently. Township officials showed up and talked to him about what he could do to reduce noise, and recommended planting more trees, which he did. He was not ticketed.

This time, he said he didn’t have a chance to talk to Township officials to tell his side of the story or work to make changes before he was ticketed.

Leaf’s dogs have been bred for police and security dogs, as well as family pets.

“Primarily, I have German shepherds,” he said, as well as some Jack Russell terriers and rottweilers. He also boards dogs, and has about 20 in total on his property.

His trained film dogs have been appearing in productions since the 1990s, including The X-Files, Marmaduke, and the Cats and Dogs films.

READ MORE: Dog banned from Langley dog park for ‘excessive’ running, barking

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Is there more to this story?

mclaxton@langleyadvance.com

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