A change in Ketchikan Gateway Borough code that will make it easier for animal protection officers to respond to animal noise complaints was approved Monday by the borough assembly.

The code change includes other amendments, but the most significant one is related to noise complaints. Assistant Borough Manager Deanna Thomas explained that the previous definition of “excessive noise” stated that the animal must make persistent, disturbing noise for longer than 10 minutes.

“The courts have taken this language and interpreted it to mean that the animal must make consistent noise for 10 minutes straight,” she said. “Generally, all of our noise complaints do not fit within that definition.”

The code change, Thomas said, will give animal protection officers meaningful enforcement ability.

There were some public comments about the code change. Ed Zastrow spoke in favor, saying that there are a number of roosters in his neighborhood that crow consistently throughout the day, starting early in the morning.

Others were concerned about the code change. Chris Barry said he doesn’t have roosters now, but he used to. He suggests that the borough work with animal owners to educate them about how to keep roosters quiet.

“For instance, what we ended up doing was making a rooster box, which was a box about 18 inches tall,” he said. “Put the rooster in at night, it makes it harder to stretch its neck out and it can’t crow if it can’t stretch its neck out. That way, it was quiet through the night. When we let it out in the morning at 8 o-clock, it started crowing and nobody cared.”

Kimberley Dean was worried that animal protection would fine people whose dogs are barking at bears in the neighborhood. Thomas responded that the proposed code change allows officers to consider various factors. Whether an animal is provoked – by a bear, for example – is one of those factors.

A visit from animal protection also would be complaint-based. But, Thomas said, complaints will be judged individually.

“If you have a persnickety neighbor who is consistently complaining – which, we will have those people that are going to complain about everything – that is one of the factors they will consider,” she said.

Animal Protection Director Eddie Blackwood told the assembly that his department works hard to resolve a conflict between neighbors. The code change provides tools to help them do that, he said, and a fine would be the last resort.

“We try and get a positive outcome for both people. You want a win-win here,” he said. “You don’t want neighbors thinking they’ve been mistreated or scrutinized too seriously. You’re hoping to get a win-win situation with both neighbors and develop an understanding.”

The motion to approve the code change passed unanimously in second reading.

Also Monday, the assembly adopted a resolution calling on Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority to move forward with selling its property in the Mountain Point area so that it can be developed into housing.

Monday’s meeting was the last borough assembly meeting of 2018.