Most people are okay with the occasional barking of a neighbor's dog or even the clucking of a few hens from next door. But if your neighbor's animals are creating a problem, such as a threatening dog which is off leash, or a cat using the kids' sandbox as a litter box, you may decide to take action.
Local and state laws govern how you can keep animals in residential areas. If a direct discussion with your neighbor is unsuccessful, then understanding these laws is one of the first steps to solving animal-related disputes.
And as a last resort in these types of disagreements, you can file a civil lawsuit for nuisance and seek a court order demanding that your neighbor resolve the problem in a timely matter.
The best option for addressing a constantly barking or dangerous dog, a loud rooster crowing at the break of dawn, or a cat repeatedly sneaking into your house, is to talk to the neighbor responsible for the offending animal in a non-confrontational manner. The chances are that they are not aware of how much of a problem their pet is causing.
For example, Neighbor A gets five hens he plans to raise in the backyard for eggs. Neighbor B's dog, normally quiet and well-behaved, begins barking nonstop and clawing under the fence by the coop upon hearing and smelling the chickens first thing in the morning. The dog's barking wakes up Neighbor A, who becomes sleep-deprived and agitated.
Neighbor B, meanwhile, is frustrated because other neighbors are now complaining about their dog's barking. But after the two neighbors discuss the problem, Neighbor A agrees to move the chicken coop to the other side of his yard and Neighbor B agrees to wait until later in the morning to let their dog out.
If your neighbor's animals are creating a problem that cannot be resolved through discussion and negotiation, you may be able to invoke a local ordinance or state law. Laws regulating pets and other animals often have the terms "dogs," "animal control," or "animal law enforcement" in the title. The following animal behavior, pet owner actions, or other conditions are typically regulated by such laws:
As a rule of thumb, the police department will not be able to help you unless it is an urgent situation. It may be more helpful to call your local animal control service instead. If they believe your complaint has merit, then they may contact the owner of the offending animal with a warning. If the problem continues, the neighbor may receive a citation, similar to a traffic ticket, which the neighbor can pay or challenge in court.
If repeated complaints to the local animal control authorities do not solve the problem, then you may want to consider filing a nuisance lawsuit in court. If the suit is successful, the court may order the owner to remedy the situation or face steep fines, or even jail time, for disobeying the court order.
The court generally will intervene with an order only if it considers the problem both "substantial" and "continuous."
If your neighbor's animals are creating a problem, it's always best to try to work it out directly with your neighbor. But that's not always effective. If you're considering filing a lawsuit you may want to first speak to a real estate lawyer in your area.