Legal Resource

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 lawsuits. 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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