Every night, when you’re about to drift off to sleep, it starts. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof… The barking from the next-door-neighbor’s dog often goes on for hours. While you love dogs and have a furry family member yourself, no one likes to lose sleep or be disturbed by them.
So how does a courteous dog owner attempt to stop dog barking?
Let them Know: First, talk to your neighbor about it directly. But do so calmly and reasonably, says Mary Randolph, author of Every Dog’s Legal Guide: A Must-Have Book for Your Owner and a former attorney.
Randolph says that most dog owners are unaware of the dog barking because it typically happens when they’re not home. “If someone goes to work, they don’t know that the dog spent two hours howling or barking, but the neighbors know,” she says, adding that barking is typically a symptom of boredom.
Randolph suggests starting out assuming they’d want to know about the problem and see if that works. “Say something along the lines of: ‘I thought you’d want to know that [the dog] seems really unhappy and is barking and howling when you’re gone,'” she says.
Some people will be horrified and apologize, and as a result will take steps to do something about it. But if the initial conversation doesn’t seem to have made an impact, you may have to go back to tell them it’s not working.
If the barking is still occurring despite a second attempt, then you might consider enlisting other neighbors to complain to them as well. It might help the dog owner better realize the problem, she explains.
Check Local Laws: Go online or down to your city hall to find the laws about barking dogs to help bolster your argument. Dog barking is a nuisance law in most places but what is in those laws varies from place to place. For instance, some communities might have laws that say if a dog barks more than 10 minutes, it’s considered a nuisance and against the law.
Once you know the laws, figure out who might be able to help you with those laws. For example, some cities have specific programs to deal with barking complaints and issue a standard letter to offenders. “That might be all that’s needed,” Randolph says.
Try Mediation: Many communities have a neighborhood mediation department specifically designed to work out disputes like barking dogs or parking issues. Do some research to see if your community has one, and if it does, use it. The way it works is you and the offending neighbor meet with the mediator to find common ground. For example, the mediator might suggest something like, “What if you [the owner] kept the dog inside after 10pm, would that work for both of you?”
Contact Animal Control or the Police Department: If talking with the neighbor doesn’t produce results, you may want to contact animal control to get involved. If animal control doesn’t help the way you’d like, then contact the police department. Randolph says having an intimidating police officer come to the door saying the barking dog is disturbing the neighbors may be the most efficient way to get the owner to take action.
Go to Small Claims Court: While you’d want to try every avenue before going to small claims court “because the last person you want to sue is the person you have to deal with every day,” says Randolph, it may have to be your final step to get some resolution to the barking. Be sure to have gathered enough evidence (i.e., a log of how many times the dog kept you awake or disturbed you), and prepare a case for yourself.
“It’s all about the preparation and getting your evidence together so you make a very simple, quick, and convincing case,” says Randolph, adding that unlike on TV shows, you don’t have much time to state your case.
“The main point is not the money. You want to get the person’s attention if they really haven’t responded to any of the other steps,” says Randolph, adding that a letter summoning him or her to small claims court may do just that.
If you win, the judge can award you damages for the loss of enjoyment of your home or property due to the barking dog.
Christine McLaughlin is a freelance writer, editor and author of The Dog Lover’s Companion to Philadelphia and contributing author to The American Red Cross: Dog First Aid.
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