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Usually, problems with barking dogs can be resolved without resorting to police or courts. If you do eventually wind up in court, however, a judge will be more sympathetic if you first made at least some effort to work things out informally. Here are the steps to take when you're losing patience (or sleep) over a neighbor's noisy dog:
1. Ask your neighbor to keep the dog quiet. Sometimes owners are blissfully unaware that there's a problem. If the dog barks for hours every day -- but only when it's left alone -- the owner may not know that you're being driven crazy.
If you can establish some rapport with the neighbor, try to agree on specific actions to alleviate the problem: for example, that your neighbor will take the dog to obedience school or consult with an animal behavior specialist, or that the dog will be kept inside after 10 p.m. After you agree on a plan, set a date to talk again in a couple of weeks.
2. Try mediation. Mediators, both professional and volunteers, are trained to listen to both sides, identify problems, keep everyone focused on the real issues, and suggest compromises. A mediator won't make a decision for you, but will help you and your neighbor agree on a resolution.
Many cities have community mediation groups which train volunteers to mediate disputes in their own neighborhoods. Or ask for a referral from:
For more information, see the Lawsuit, Mediation & Arbitration area of Nolo's website.
3. Look up the law. In some places, barking dogs are covered by a specific state or local ordinance. If there's no law aimed specifically at dogs, a general nuisance or noise ordinance makes the owner responsible. And someone who allows a dog to bark after numerous warnings from police may be arrested for disturbing the peace.
To find out what the law is where you live, go to a law library and check the state statutes and city or county ordinances yourself. (See How to Find Local Ordinances and State Laws, above.) Look in the index under "noise," "dogs," "animals," or "nuisance." Or call the local animal control agency or city attorney.
4. Ask animal control authorities to enforce local noise laws. Be persistent. Some cities have special programs to handle dog complaints.
5. Call the police, if you think a criminal law is being violated. Generally, police aren't too interested in barking dog problems. And summoning a police cruiser to a neighbor's house obviously will not improve your already-strained relations. But if nothing else works, and the relationship with your neighbor is shot anyway, give the police a try.
For a complete guide to laws concerning common neighbor disputes, including noise, trees and blocked views, get Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees, Boundaries & Noise, by Cora Jordan (Nolo).