The Common Law
My Neighbor's Dog Won't Stop Barking What Can I Do?
Problems arise when people and their animals live in close proximity. One common problem is the obnoxious neighbor who allows her dog to bark loud and often. What are your options if you are unfortunate enough to experience "Cujo on crack"-style barking on a regular basis?
As a general rule, you should try talking to your neighbor in an attempt to figure out a friendly solution to the problem (put the dog inside, other side of yard, etc.). Assuming a neighborly chat does not resolve the problem, if you live in a community that is governed by a homeowners association, you should check to see if the neighbor's noisy dog violates any provisions of your homeowners association agreement.
If after trying the first two options, the dog is still barking, the good news for the insomniac neighbor is that most cities have certain restrictions on noisy animals. Even a dog-friendly city like Austin has passed ordinances that are designed to prevent a noisy animal from disrupting its neighbors.
Section 3-2-2 of the Austin City Code specifically addresses "noisy animals." Section 3-2-2 states: "An owner or handler may not keep an animal that makes frequent or long, continued noise that is disturbing to a person of normal sensibilities." Many cities and towns have similar ordinances.
Anyone bothered by incessant barking can contact the city of Austin and report a potential violation of the "noisy animal" ordinance. The neighbor could be subject to a fine if her dog violates the "noisy animal" ordinance. Keep in mind, however, that the noise must be disturbing to a "person of normal sensibilities," so occasional barking that bothers a particularly sensitive neighbor (but otherwise would not bother a normal neighbor) is most likely not a violation of the "noisy animal" statute.
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Dawson, Sodd, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.dawsonsodd.com.
The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.