A homeowner dealing with a barking dog in their area may have legal options to consider. They might start by discussing the situation with the dog owner and trying to reach an informal solution. If this does not work, though, a homeowner can assert their rights under any state or local laws. Some states provide specific laws regarding barking dogs and other noisy pets that disturb neighbors. These may allow a neighbor bothered by the noise to file a complaint with a local government agency. The local agency will determine the action needed to resolve the disturbance.
Excessive noise from pets also may fall within the parameters of a local ordinance on noises or other “nuisances” on property. (A “nuisance” is any unreasonable or illegal activity that prevents a property owner from reasonably using and enjoying their property.) If a homeowner disturbed by barking complains to the police, they may issue a warning to the dog owner. In some cases, the police might arrest the owner if they ignore repeated warnings, and the owner may face minor criminal charges.
Getting Animal Control Involved
Some animal control departments manage dog complaint programs, which can be a more effective alternative than calling the police. A program may provide certain steps for making a complaint about excessive barking, and it may assign certain officials or agencies to follow up on these complaints. Animal control may issue warnings or sanctions if a dog owner does not address the problem, especially if multiple neighbors file complaints.
Nuisance Claims Based on Dog Barking
Sometimes a homeowner will file a lawsuit against a neighbor, based on excessive barking by their dog. Before going to court, though, a homeowner should pursue less drastic steps. In addition to negotiating directly with the dog owner, they might want to write a formal demand letter that documents the problem and proposes a solution. Mediation also might resolve the problem if direct negotiations fail.
A property owner often will file a lawsuit in small claims court, which is faster and cheaper than proceeding in regular court. Unlike a judge in regular court, a judge in small claims court cannot issue an injunction ordering the dog owner to prevent or limit the barking problem. A property owner instead can receive monetary damages through small claims court. This still might motivate the dog owner to address the problem, though, especially if they are repeatedly sued and ordered to pay damages as incidents pile up.
Statutes of Limitations
A nuisance lawsuit based on a barking dog must be filed within a certain time after the problem arises. This is known as the statute of limitations. A case can be dismissed if it is filed after the statute of limitations expires.
Damages for subjective harm caused by a barking dog, such as disrupted sleep, may be hard to calculate. Often, a small amount can be assessed for each day of disruption and multiplied by the number of days for which it lasted. If a dog engaged in activities beyond barking that caused property damage to a neighbor, they can seek damages for repairs and other out-of-pocket costs as well.