The Common Law

My front yard is a toilet

My neighbor's pet keeps using my front yard as a toilet. I've talked to the neighbor about it a bunch, but it still happens often. Is there anything I can do (legally) to stop him from letting his pet go in my yard?


It is a beautiful day in Austin. You walk out your front door to start the day and smell something foul – something you've smelled too many times recently – your neighbor's doggy doo doo. There are several legal actions that you can take to remedy this situation.

Understanding that talking with your neighbor (always your first option) has failed, the second option is to check with your homeowner's association (if any) 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. Hopefully this would get your neighbor's attention.

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 3-4-6. Section 3-4-6 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 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. 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!

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

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.

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