The Common Law
Illegal dumping doggy style
It is a beautiful day. You walk out your front door. As you bend over to pick up your morning paper, you smell something foul: your neighbor's doggie doo doo. There are several legal actions that you can take to remedy this situation.
First, try talking to your neighbor. Assuming you have already tried and failed, the second option is to check with your homeowners association to see if there are any rules about cleaning up after pets. You may be able to file a complaint with the association, resulting in a notice or even a fine. This will certainly get your neighbor's attention.
Third, assuming you live in Austin, you could call the city of Austin and/or the police department and file a complaint for a violation of Austin Municipal Code, section 346. Section 346 states that "an owner or handler shall promptly remove and sanitarily dispose of feces left on public or private property by a dog or cat being handled by the person, other than property owned by the owner or handler of the dog or cat." A violation of this section is a Class C misdemeanor, meaning that it is punishable by a fine.
You could also complain to the police of criminal trespass; however, you will have to notify your neighbor either orally or by posting a sign stating that entry on your property is forbidden. You should make sure that the sign you post complies with your homeowners association rules. And obviously, if you speak to your neighbor in person, remember the rule my mother always recites: You will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, so be nice!
Finally, you could file a civil lawsuit against your neighbor for trespass. If this route is chosen, be aware that it will likely cost you more in attorney's fees than you will get in damages. But please, before you walk into an attorney's office for advice, check the bottom of your shoes!
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Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.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.