Third Degree Misdeamenor for Barking at a Dog?

Dog barks at man, it’s normal. Man barks at dog, man goes to jail? Apparently that was the case for Ryan Stephens of Mason, Ohio, who was arrested for drunkenly barking at a police dog.

The dog, named Timber, responded to the man’s bark by barking back, as he is trained to do. The policeman who owns the dog then went after Mr. Stephens, who refused to stop despite his orders. He was charged with a third-degree misdemeanor offense for the incident, as well as public intoxication (which he obviously was). According to the sheriff who owns the dog, such an action is illegal according to city statutes because barking at a police dog is considered “malicious teasing” and could cause the dog harm. Mr. Stephens’ lawyer says that the mere act of barking at a dog can’t be considered abuse, and the statute preventing illegal barking is too vague to be properly carried out without violating the First Amendment right to free speech.

Granted, barking at a dog is unusual, and probably not something many people do unless they are as drunk as Mr. Stephens was, but making barking sounds is a first amendment right, and there is no real proof that barking at a dog, for whatever weird reason one would have for doing so, is in anyway abusing an animal. Insane laws like this are difficult to enforce, and are so broad that they invite a whole manner of potential abuses of power by law enforcement, and that’s enough to get anybody barking mad. Originally published at

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