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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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Barking Dogs & Public Nuisance Laws

By Susan Paretts
 

Overview

Dogs bark to communicate with other dogs and with people. Unfortunately, barking can sometimes develop into a compulsive behavior. If your neighbors can hear the excessive barking, they may file a noise complaint against you and your dog, declaring him a public nuisance. Nuisance laws related to dog barking vary and can result in a fine, a criminal charge or the impounding of your dog.

Excessive Barking

Dogs may bark excessively for a number of reasons, including boredom, excitement, separation anxiety and senility, or as part of a desire to mate. Have your dog spayed or neutered to prevent him from barking constantly due to his mating instincts. Give him interactive toys to play with during the day, if you are not home, so that he does not become bored or anxious. Chew toys you can fill with dog treats, peanut butter or yogurt help relieve separation anxiety. Certain medications can help with psychological causes for excessive barking. Speak to your veterinarian if you are having no success in training your dog to remain quiet; a medical issue may be the cause. Some training aids, such as citronella collars, can help deter your dog from barking but should not be used for more than a few hours at a time.

Public Nuisance Laws

Public nuisance laws protect against excessive noise disturbing the quality of life of your neighbors. These laws have a wide range of requirements to declare a dog a public nuisance. Public nuisance barking includes not only barking itself, but also howls, bays and cries. Some laws may include a required duration for the barks to be considered a nuisance, such as barking for 30 minutes straight or a combined 60 minutes in a 24-hour period. In Denver, for example, dogs are considered a nuisance if they bark repeatedly between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. or during the rest of the day when their owners are away. Because laws vary, check with your local law enforcement office to acquire a copy of your city or county's public nuisance laws.

Filing a Complaint

To file a complaint against a neighbor whose dog barks excessively or at inappropriate hours, contact your local animal control or animal services division to report the nuisance barking. The agency will send you a complaint form to fill out or direct you to its website to download the form. Include the neighbor's name and address, along with a physical description of the dog. Cite the time and duration of each incident of excessive barking and provide your contact information, including your name, address and phone number. Most municipalities require another complaint before declaring a dog a public nuisance. These subsequent complaints require separate paperwork and the corroboration of one or more of your neighbors.

The Process

Upon receipt of the first noise complaint, animal services will contact your neighbor, usually by letter. This letter warns the owner to control the dog's barking, usually without including your information. Once you file a subsequent complaint, usually after a waiting period of one to two weeks, the process to declare the dog a public nuisance is started. This involves a public hearing, which you and your co-complainant neighbors or witnesses must attend, along with the offending dog's owner. The court typically requests evidence of the barking, usually in the form of a "bark log" that contains the dates, times and duration of the dog's barking for a one- to two-week period.

Considerations

Before filing a complaint, speak with your neighbor directly or leave her a note. It is possible the owner is unaware that the dog is barking when she is not home. Check with your city to determine whom to contact about filing a complaint. Some areas don't have an animal services division of law enforcement, so you may have to contact the police department instead. If you suspect that your neighbor's dog is barking due to cruelty, such as being tied constantly in a yard or kept outdoors without proper food and shelter, report it the authorities. In extreme cases, the owner of a dog declared a public noise nuisance may face jail time if she does not comply with a public nuisance citation.
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