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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 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.

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.

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 in a non-confrontational manner. The chances are that 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 inside of a personal vehicle
  • Animal abuse, cruelty, or inhuman treatment
  • Spaying or neutering requirements and regular veterinarian care
  • Rabies vaccination requirement

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.

Nuisance Lawsuits

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

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 animals in general who have poor temperament 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, such as in 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 first speak to a real estate lawyer in your area.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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