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The most common complaint about dogs is their barking and other noises that they may make. Every city has law(s) against noise nuisances caused by a dog(s). Most laws define a barking dog nuisance as follows:
A BARKING DOG MEANS A DOG THAT BARKS, BAYS, CRIES, HOWLS, OR MAKES ANY NOISE FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME TO THE DISTURBANCE OF ANY PERSON AT ANY TIME OF DAY OR NIGHT, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THE DOG IS PHYSICALLY SITUATED IN OR UPON PRIVATE PROPERTY. SUCH EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME SHALL CONSIST OF INCESSANT BARKING FOR 30 MINUTES OR MORE IN ANY 24-HOUR PERIOD, OR INTERMITTENT BARKING FOR 60 MINUTES OR MORE DURING ANY 24-HOUR PERIOD. A DOG SHALL NOT BE DEEMED A “BARKING DOG” FOR PURPOSES OF THIS ARTICLE IF, AT ANY TIME THE DOG IS BARKING, A PERSON IS TRESPASSING OR THREATENING TO TRESPASS UPON PRIVATE PROPERTY IN OR UPON WHICH THE DOG IS SITUATED, OR WHEN THE DOG IS BEING TEASED OR PROVOKED.
The first step in resolving a barking dog issue is asking the dog owner to stop the noise. However, approaching someone with a complaint can be unpleasant and, in some cases, intimidating.
However, talking to your neighbor calmly and reasonably is an essential first step. Even if you do eventually end up in court, a judge isn’t likely to be sympathetic towards you if you didn’t make at least some effort to work things out first. If you approach the issue with diplomacy, you may be pleasantly surprised by the dog owner’s willingness to work toward a solution.
Here are some suggestions on how to get the most from your negotiations:
• Write a friendly note or call to arrange a convenient time to talk to the dog owner.
• Don’t threaten to take legal action until you have given the dog owner an opportunity to address your concerns.
If talking with the dog owner does not resolve the issue, then the second step is to contact the city department that handles dog nuisance claims. In Downey, the responsibility has been delegated to the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority (SEAACA).
SEAACA processes complaints in the following manner:
a. First complaint. After receiving a complaint, SEAACA issues a written notice to the guardian or person having custody of the dog(s) advising such person of the noise complaint and requesting immediate abatement of any excessive noise.
b. Second complaint. SEACCA sends an Animal Control Officer to contact the guardian of the dog(s) to educate him/her about the nuisance and to resolve the barking issue. The guardian of the dog(s) could also be cited for other offenses, such as an expired license or failure to obtain a license.
c. Third complaint. If a third complaint is reported, a petition can be requested from the reporting party. If the animal control agency receives the completed petition, the petition will be forwarded to the District Attorney or City Prosecutor for consideration of possible criminal charges.
When negotiations fail, when adequate relief cannot be secured through SEACCA action, or when monetary damages are sought, the third step is to consider pursuing civil litigation. A civil action may be brought to stop the barking, to seek monetary damages, or both.
A civil action may be filed in small claims court if the amount sought does not exceed $10,000 for natural persons or $7,500 for nonperson entities. If the damages sought exceed the limits stated above, an action may be filed in superior court.
However, as with all lawsuits, restraint should be exercised. You can easily create more problems by resorting to litigation too hastily. Before commencing a civil action, you should consult a lawyer. A lawyer can help you avoid common pitfalls that are inherent in matters involving neighbor disputes.
Published: Aug. 14, 2014 – Volume 13 – Issue 18