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Attorney Van O'Steen

Law Helps Neighbors Muzzle Nuisance of Barking Dogs

Van O'Steen

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Mark Twain once quipped that we should be grateful heaven goes by gift and not merit. If it went by merit, we would stay out and our dogs would go in.

Dogs impose very little on us. They are devoted, they are loyal and they rarely talk back. However, they are not perfect. In fact, occasionally they can be a genuine nuisance—particularly if they bark incessantly. The ones who regularly serenade us, and our neighbors, in the middle of the night especially are deserving of a place other than heaven.

Arizona law protects people against nuisances. This protection, under appropriate circumstances, extends to man's best friend. The test always is whether the barking would offend a normal person's sensibilities. Because most of us live relatively close together, especially in cities, we are required to tolerate a certain amount of noise. Some people are too sensitive to the sounds around them.
Only when it has been determined that a "normal person" would be offended by the barking will the law aid you in having it stopped.

If your neighbor's dog is bothering you with its barking, the obvious first step is to speak with the owner about the problem. The legal system always should be a remedy of last resort.

Assuming your complaints are reasonable and can be verified, a citation for disturbing the peace can be issued to the dog's owner. After a hearing in court, the owner can be fined.

There also is another legal remedy available to you. You, and other affected neighbors, can file a claim for money damages against the dog's owner in Justice Court. You can do this yourself; you are not required to use a lawyer. If you win your case, the judge will order the dog's owner to pay you money for disturbing your peace. This usually ends the barking problem.

Be prepared at the court hearing to have other neighbors describe how the barking bothers them, too. This will help overcome any claim that you are unreasonably sensitive to this noise.

Most dogs probably earn their place in heaven. The few who do not can be prevented from raising hell here.