The Common Law
The neighbor’s dog barks non-stop
I live in North Austin. My neighbor's dog barks all the time. And I mean all the time. It barks early in the morning, late at night, and pretty much all during the day, often when I'm trying to work from home. Is there a law for barking dogs?
There's not a law that is specific to only barking dogs. But Austin does have an ordinance (Section 3-2-2) that 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." This ordinance is not unique to Austin. Most cities and towns have similar ordinances that prohibit frequent, loud, and/or disturbing animal noise.
Anyone bothered by incessant dog barking can contact the city of Austin (use non-emergency 3-1-1 for this issue) and report a potential violation of the "noisy animal" ordinance. The neighbor with the dog could be subject to a fine if the 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 likely not a violation of the "noisy animal" statute.
These kinds of problems happen when people and their animals live in close proximity. It's important to note there are other possible options to resolve the issue prior to involving the City. For example, it's always worth having a friendly discussion with your neighbor to figure out a practical, non-legal solution to the problem. If the neighbor with the noisy dog is a tenant, it's possible the loud, constant noise violates the terms of the lease. Also, if you live in a community that is governed by a homeowner's association, you should check to see if the noisy dog violates any provisions of the homeowner's association agreement.
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Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.mehlaw.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.