My Neighbor's Dog Keeps Barking; Do I Have Any Legal Rights?


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Noisy dogs are a common legal dispute. After all, while pet owners may feel annoyance at a dog that barks at every little noise, a neighbor has absolutely no control over training the dog not to respond in this manner. Thus, as the neighbor, what can you do legally to get the pet owner to quiet his noisy animal?

Usually, problems with noisy neighbors and barking dogs can be resolved simply by talking with your neighbor, politely explaining your concerns, and asking if a compromise can be made that will satisfy you both. However, some neighbors are unable or unwilling to do what is necessary to quiet their pet without requiring you to call the police or resort to filing a lawsuit. Of course, both police and judges will be much more sympathetic to your case if you attempted to resolve the matter before escalating to using a legal remedy.

Thus, here is a suggested course of action to follow while attempting to resolve a noisy dog dispute:

Talk. First, ask your neighbor to keep the dog quiet. Sometimes pet owners grow tolerant to the noises of their own animals, or may simply have sufficient soundproofing to mute the sound of the barking. On the other hand, if the dog only barks when left alone, the owner may not know that this is happening because he or she is not there to observe it.

Try to establish some rapport with the neighbor, possibly even suggesting specific actions that could alleviate the problem, such as obedience school or keeping the dog inside during certain hours. Not only might you resolve the problem, but you may also make a new friend in the process. If you are able to befriend the neighbor, that will also help you to follow up on the issue in a few weeks to make sure the problem has been permanently resolved.

Mediate. If talking alone does not help, or degenerates into an argument, suggest mediation. Mediators are individuals who are trained to listen to both sides of a dispute, keep everyone focused on the real issues, point out the strengths and weaknesses of each party's position, and help to push the parties meet in the middle on a resolution. A lawsuit does not need to be pending in order to seek the assistance of a mediator. In fact, a successful mediation could result in an agreement that keeps the matter from ever reaching a law suit. To find an attorney in your area that could also serve as a mediator, visit HG.org and use the attorney search function.

Research. If the neighbor refuses to cooperate, will not attend mediation, or simply ignores the agreement reached at mediation, it may be time to investigate your options. Look up local laws. HG.org provides a wealth of resources, but you can also visit a local law library for additional information specific to your jurisdiction. Try to determine if your jurisdiction has specific laws dealing with noisy dogs or if there are only general nuisance laws in your area. Determine what the law says on the matter, whether there are any necessary actions you must take if you decide to file suit, and whether there may be any alternative means of addressing your concern (e.g., administrative agencies responsible for investigating and regulating animal noise issues).

Law Enforcement. If you have tried everything else, but the neighbor still does not keep the pet under control, it may be time to consider animal control or law enforcement. Ask animal control authorities to enforce local noise laws, if applicable. If there are no animal control laws in your area, contact law enforcement about the noise. Be persistent, but polite. Some areas may not have laws regulating animal noises, and law enforcement may have more serious crimes with which to deal than a simple noise violation.

Of course, summoning animal control or a police cruiser to a neighbor's house will not greatly improve your relationship with that neighbor (and may alienate others). But, if all else has failed, this may be your last, best chance to avoid a lawsuit.

Go to Court. If the neighbor still does not take care of the noise issue, you may be forced to file a lawsuit. You will likely seek injunctive relief (i.e., a court order that the neighbor must keep the dog quiet or be in contempt of court) as well as damages for any financial losses the noisy dog may have caused (e.g., diminished property value, lost tenants or real estate sales, etc.).

This can obviously be quite an expensive undertaking for all parties involved, so it should be the last resort after trying everything else to resolve the dispute unsuccessfully. Still, if all else has failed, court intervention may be your last, best hope for finally getting the peace and quiet you deserve.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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