Barking dogs can go from being just an annoyance to becoming a nightmare in just a few nights. Ideally, the owner should be the one doing something about the barking, but that's not always how things work out. Some owners simply don't know their dogs bark. For example, they might only bark when the owner is gone. Others probably know but don't care. If living with the barking is proving too difficult, don't despair. You do have rights as a neighbor and property owner.
What the Law Says
Barking-dog laws vary depending on where you live. If a neighboring dog is driving you crazy with his barking, you need to call your local animal control office and find out local regulations regarding barking dogs. One city might have laws regarding dogs who bark after 11 p.m. but not during the day, while another might regulate barking at any time of day and another only in certain zones. Before you do anything else, you need to know what the laws in your city are.
Document the Problem
In order to get some help from the authorities, you need to prove "nuisance barking." This is not the same as ocassional barking. Nuisance barking is barking that is so bad your quality of life is being affected -- for example, if you can't sleep or if your children can't go out into the yard because the dog barks nonstop when he sees them. Many cities require proof of nuisance barking in the form of audio or video. Some cities have time minimums: If a dog doesn't bark for, let's say, 20 minutes nonstop, he might not meet the threshold considered a nuisance.
Getting the Authorities Involved
If you're dealing with nuisance barking, you have a right to contact the police or animal control office. Although you could try to solve the problem on your own by contacting the owner, you don't have to -- and it's not always suitable. You can go directly to the authorities if you feel more comfortable. After you present a complaint, the police will investigate and issue a citation or warning if necessary. Depending on where you live, repeated citations could result in a court battle or in the city seizing the dog.
In many cities, you have a right to sue your neighbor in small claims court if he fails to do something about his barking dog. Keep in mind that in most cases, all you can win in court is money -- money to change your windows to soundproof ones or to build a taller fence that will limit how much you hear. Or the owner might be forced to keep the dog inside or to get the dog to training school to teach him to stop barking.
- Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images