FORT COLLINS - Fort Collins residents frustrated by their neighbors' barking dogs may now find it easier to get a little peace and quiet.

The city has changed the way animal control officers deal with complaints about barking dogs, making it easier for residents to anonymously complain. In the past, residents generally were required to provide a series of specific details about whose dogs were barking, what they looked like, where they lived and how often they were a problem. They also usually were required to sign the complaint.

And to cap it off, animal control officers were required to personally talk to the dogs' owners before addressing any complaints. That meant residents who repeatedly complained about their neighbors' dogs might have had to wait days or even weeks while officers tried to reach someone. And they were limited in taking action if the complaining neighbor couldn't provide many specific details.

"In the meantime, the neighbors were just getting more and more upset because we couldn't move forward," said Larimer Humane Society spokeswoman Stephanie Ashley.

Under the new system, animal control officers now can just leave a note on residents' doors to let them know someone complained. And punishments are civil tickets, rather than criminal punishments.

"It allows the punishment to meet the crime a little bit better," Ashley said.

The change is music to the ears of many city residents and animal control officers. Last year alone, the Humane Society received more than 400 complaints about barking dogs and then had to make nearly 350 in-person followup visits to try and meet with dogs' owners. The new rules affect only Fort Collins; the rules are different in Larimer County and Loveland, but all three contract with the Humane Society to provide animal-control services.

"Before, they wanted you to chart all the days and times it was a problem, basically putting it on the person who's already being inconvenienced," said resident Jill Suzanne. "It's unbelievable how the owner can ignore it for hours. ... We have a home office, like many others."