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What Can I Do if My Neighbor's Animals Are Creating a Problem?

Female German Shepherd standing and looking out on the neighborhood from her fenced yard.

Most people are okay with the occasional barking of a neighbor's dog. They are also often okay with the clucking of a few hens from next door. But if your neighbor's animals are creating a problem, such as a threatening off-leash dog or a cat using the kids' sandbox as a litter box, you may decide to take action. Barking dogs and other nuisances can create annoyances. If certain types of disturbances become extreme enough, you might even decide to take legal action.

Local and state laws govern how you can keep animals in residential areas. If a direct discussion with your neighbor is unsuccessful, understanding these laws is one of the first steps to figuring things out. It's important to know how to solve animal-related disputes. Continue reading to learn more.

Filing a Lawsuit

As a last resort, you can file a civil lawsuit on grounds related to nuisance. You could seek a court order demanding that your neighbor resolve the problem in a timely matter. For example, if your neighbor has not remedied a problem despite your many attempts to resolve it, a court could assist you in obtaining a solution. Whether it's damage from a neighbor who hasn't prevented their animal from repeatedly using your property as a bathroom or damage from livestock on your farmland, you can seek assistance from a court under extreme circumstances.

To learn more, it may be helpful to reference related articles, including Property Rights: My Neighbor Is a NuisanceYour Neighbors' Right to Farm, and Dog Bites and Animal Attacks.

What You Cannot Do

If you're disturbed by a neighbor's animal, you cannot do the following:

  • You cannot trespass to resolve an animal-related disturbance. You may face penalties for crossing the boundary lines of your property onto a neighbor's property.
  • You cannot take a neighbor's pet to an animal shelter when they are creating disturbances.

It's important to verify the laws of your state. Many other types of behaviors are prohibited, as well. You should check zoning laws in any given jurisdiction, among others.

Resolving the Problem Directly With Your Neighbor

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. It's best to do so in a non-confrontational manner. Chances are, they are not aware of how much of a problem their pet is causing.

Local Laws

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:

  • Number of animals allowed per household and yearly licensing requirements
  • Types of animals allowed in a home
  • Length of time and frequency of dog barking allowed
  • Leash requirements for dogs
  • Cleaning up after your pet
  • Willful abandonment or neglect of a pet
  • Restrictions on vicious or dangerous animals
  • Containers and proper disposal methods for animal waste disposal
  • Proper loading and transportation of animals, such as inside of a personal vehicle
  • Animal abuse, cruelty, or inhumane treatment
  • Spaying or neutering requirements and regular veterinarian care
  • Rabies vaccination requirements

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, 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.

Nuisance Lawsuits

If repeated complaints to the local animal control authorities do not solve a noise or barking problem, 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."

Negligence Lawsuits

Beyond barking, an animal may have vicious or dangerous propensities. For example, local laws may require muzzling for certain breeds of dogs. Or it may require muzzles for animals (in general) who have poor temperaments or are prone to unprovoked biting. In general, proving pet owner negligence is a matter of showing that a caretaker failed to take reasonable precautions to limit a known (or foreseeable) danger posed by an animal. This could include instances where there may be a compelling reason for muzzling a hostile dog, maintaining it in a fenced environment away from the property of others, or keeping it on a leash at all times.

Neighbor's Animals Creating a Problem? Get in Touch With a Local Attorney

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 speak to a real estate lawyer in your area first. It's always a good idea to seek legal advice from a licensed attorney.

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