Nuisance Issues and Some Steps Toward Resolving Conflicts

It’s the second time this week that you’ve received a call
from your neighbor, complaining that your dog’s barking is driving
her crazy. This time she’s threatening to call the police or
animal. control. Or in a similar vein, your cat is leaving little
treasures in your neighbor’s begonias. At this point you might
be asking yourself: what can I do about it; what are my rights?

Barking is a normal mode of communication for dogs. The only
one who doesn’t seem to hear the excessive noise is the owner.
There can be numerous reasons for the barking the dog can be
lonely or bored, strangers may be near, or he might be hungry.
Animals will be themselves, or they may be reacting to circumstances
which prevent their natural behavior.

We all want the pleasures that come from having companion
animals in our homes. However, with that comes an owner ‘s responsibility
to be a good neighbor. When the peaceful enjoyment of one’s property
is disturbed, then a "nuisance " may exist. We frequently
receive complaints of this nature, and several steps can be taken
to resolve a conflict. Don’t let the situation deteriorate so
that a neighbor is threatening to harm your animal.

Responsible Pet Ownership

A responsible person is one who properly cares for her pet
and does not create a nuisance in her neighborhood. If you are
aware of your responsibility for the problem, then you can be
part of the solution. Be honest with yourself – is your animal
a problem? Be willing to consider that your dog could require
special obedience training; perhaps you can control your cat
or dog by keeping her indoors; perhaps the problem can be handled
by building a fence around your yard, and/or by walking your
dog on a leash.

Communication: The best method of conflict resolution
is to communicate and negotiate directly with your neighbor.
Be willing to compromise.

Mediation: An impartial third party can help people
settle disputes and reach solutions. Peaceful dispute resolution
ends conflicts without resorting to violence or lengthy, expensive
law-suits. It is best to get agreements in writing (a written
consent agreement). These services are listed in the telephone
book under "Mediation." The city and county government
may also offer mediation services or can give referrals.

Humane Society/Animal Control: Call and ask how they
would handle the situation. Ask for advice about how to resolve
the matter with your neighbor. If your neighbor has called them
to complain about you, it is even more important to get in touch
with them. Do they also offer mediation assistance?

Noise Ordinance: In the case of loud barking, find out
if there is a local noise ordinance and what constitutes a public
nuisance (more than 10 minutes of noise is standard). Local public
or law libraries list city and county ordinances.

For more information on dog bite law, read "Every Dog’s Legal Guide: A Must-Have Book for Your Owner,"
by Mary Randolph. Written for non-lawyers, it’s a helpful book on a
variety of legal issues relating to canine companions. It’s available
from Nolo Press, 950 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA 94710, (415) 549-1976.

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