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Are Neighbor's Dogs Considered a Public Nuisance?

Spokane, WA |

Here's my local ordinance: "To keep or harbor any dog which by frequent OR habitual howling, yelping or barking or the making of other noises is a public nuisance."

My question is, what manner of barking would meet this definition, specifically? Unlike many barking ordinances there's no requirement the noise be of a continuous nature or be sustained a set amount of minutes. I'm assuming a neighbor's dog who barks several times per day (usually in one to two minute increments a time at ear-shattering frequency) at non-threatening targets and is heard beyond my property would qualify. Am I correct in this assumption?

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

A barking dog could be legally found to be a nuisance, and your local ordinance as you have transcribed in your question, apparently recognizes this. However, the ordinance distinguishes a barking dog as a "public" nuisance and so your local government/code enforcement authority will have the power to take some action. You need to be proactive in making complaints and documenting the frequency (dates/times/duration) as well as how loud the barking is. You might want to consider recording the incidents in some way to document the dog's barking and provide copies to code enforcement.

The other attorney is correct, that you might want to try to communicating directly with the dog's owner to solve the problem, but you may have already done that as well.

Ultimately, whether the barking dog is found to be a public nuisance is a determination that must be made on a case by case basis. So having kept a record of dog barking frequency, and having made recordings of how loud the dog barks are, could be important pieces of evidence that the code enforcement board would use in making that determination. You should also consider organizing your neighbors to join in filing complaints if it's really a bad situation.

My answers on Avvo.com are intended to help clarify the legal process in your situation to the extent possible on this website. Criminal law can be very complicated and very serious. Every case is different and my answers are not intended to serve as legal advice unless so stated. If you have been charged with a crime you could be placed on probation or face incarceration. Please contact an attorney if you think you need legal advice in a criminal matter.

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Asker

Posted

Excellent information, Mr. Flagg. Thank you.

Byron David Flagg

Byron David Flagg

Posted

Good luck. Unfortunately I am only licensed to practice law in Florida - not in your state. But certainly, this is something you should be able to handle without an attorney.

Posted

You've already asked this question - the answer is determined by animal control and the courts. I suggest you speak to a local attorney. Your local and state bar associations can give you a referral.

If we do not have a signed fee agreement I am not your attorney and this is not legal advice.

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Asker

Posted

Your response is in no way helpful.

Laura Mcfarland-Taylor

Laura Mcfarland-Taylor

Posted

Listen, I get that you are frustrated but the bottom line is that it doesn't matter what you or I think the ordinance should mean - it matters how the AC and the courts have interpreted it and for that answer you need to speak with a local attorney.

Asker

Posted

I've already received the information I was looking for from the attorney above, and have rated him accordingly. At this point, you are simply being argumentative. Please feel free to ignore my questions in the future.

Posted

First off, have you spoken to the neighbor about this problem? Sometimes people are not aware of their dog's barking or howling during the day when they are gone. The dog is probably bored and reacting as dogs will. Suggest the neighbor keep the dog inside during the day or have a dog walker come to make sure it gets exercise and can relive some of its stress.

If this doesn't work, you should check to see if your community offers a mediation service for issues like this. Often there is a low cost service for neighbor disputes. If not, then offer mediation to your neighbor and if all else fails, check with a local attorney. There may be other ordinances regarding noise that apply to the dog barking as well.

Good luck. I do hope you can resolve this without resorting to the courts.

This response is not to be construed as establishing an attorney-client relationship, and provides general information on the subject at hand only.

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Asker

Posted

The dog owner is fully aware of the problem yet makes no effort to abate the nuisance. Believe me - a lawsuit is the last thing I wish to pursue, so your suggestion of a mediation is well received. Thank you for the suggestion.

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