Undoubtedly the most common complaint about dogs is barking. Itâ€™s hard to think of anything more annoying than a dog that keeps you up all night or barks all day when itâ€™s left alone. Although there is almost always a law against dogs that bark excessively, barking problems can usually be resolved without resorting to the legal system.
Barking may be relatively easy to correct through training. Barking often results from an inexperienced ownerâ€™s interaction with his or her pet, but almost every community has someone qualified to help with dog training problems such as barking.
If your problem is with a neighborâ€™s dog, your first step should be talking with the dogâ€™s owner. In the case of a dog that barks while the owner is away, the owner may not even know that there is a problem. Donâ€™t wait until your frustration causes you to be confrontational, you should approach in a friendly and unassuming way to arrange a time to talk. Talking will not be productive if you approach your neighbor without warning or at an inconvenient time. Try to agree on specific approaches to solve the problem; for example, the dog will be kept in the house overnight. You may also want to tactfully suggest that the owner get professional help, such as obedience classes for the dog. Set a time to follow up in a couple of weeks. You should not, at least initially, threaten legal action.
If a complaint is made about your dog, you should be willing to discuss the issue with an open mind. Even if your neighbor is completely unreasonable, solving the problem quickly before there is a police complaint or a lawsuit is in everyoneâ€™s best interest.
If your talks with your neighbor are unsuccessful, you may want to seek help from a mediator. Mediation is done in a safe, structured environment. Mediators are trained to listen to everyone, focus on the real problems and suggest workable compromises. Often, going through the process of mediation is constructive because both the dogâ€™s owner and the aggrieved neighbor feel that their concerns have been heard. There are many places that can refer you to a mediation service and many cities have volunteers that mediate neighborhood disputes. Radio and television stations often offer help with community problems or you may also want to check your local small claims court clerksâ€™ office or the local bar association for a referral.
If mediation doesnâ€™t work, you should contact the animal control authorities in your city or county. Donâ€™t just make a complaint and forget about it, find out what will be done and when, and find out who to follow up with. At this stage it may be useful to talk to other neighbors about the barking dog and ask them for their help, multiple complaints will often trigger action.
The next step is to call the police. The police have the power to issue citations for disturbing the peace. In extreme cases the police may arrest an owner of a problem dog.
If you have taken all these steps and still have not had the problem addressed to your satisfaction, you can sue the owner to recover money damages. A lawsuit should be your last resort; after all, you will still live next door to your neighbor after the lawsuit is over.
You should strongly consider small claims court because the procedures are simple and the process is relatively quick. In most states you do not need a lawyer to proceed. The basis of your claim will be that the neighborâ€™s barking dog has created a nuisance. Nuisance is defined broadly and varies from state to state, but it generally includes an unlawful condition that interferes with the use and enjoyment ofyour home. Several books have been written about how to succeed in small claims court; you may want to check one of these before proceeding. If you win, it is likely that all the judge can do is order that the dogâ€™s owner pay you an amount of money. While this will not stop the dog from barking, it will undoubtedly motivate the owner to take steps to solve the problem.
For more information or to contact:
Tom Overton, Attorney The Overton Law Firm 1080 Kalamath St. Denver, CO 80204 (303) 832-9249 www.overtonlawfirm.com