Barking Dogs & Public Nuisance Laws

If he keeps this up, you could be fined.
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If your neighbor's barking dog is driving you crazy, or your barking dog is driving your neighbor crazy, what happens next depends on your town's ordinances. While public nuisance laws vary, most spell out the specific circumstances under which you can file a complaint against your neighbor or vice versa.

Barking by the Minute

Dogs bark. It's their nature. They alert their owners to people on the property or any unusual goings-on. Reasonable people put up with a certain amount of barking, but beyond a certain time frame it's excessive and a nuisance. In many jurisdictions, once a dog barks for 20 consecutive minutes, you can contact the local animal control officer to investigate or file a complaint. In Centennial, Colorado, your dog's on the hook if he barks continuously for 10 minutes during the day and five minutes at night.

The Process

Depending on the municipality, the neighbor must either call and complain or file a formal, written complaint. Generally, the barking dog's owner gets a warning from the animal control officer after the initial complaint. He is given a set amount of time, usually five days to a week, to correct the problem. If there's another complaint, he's likely to face fines. In many jurisdictions, violating a nuisance ordinance is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor.


Misdemeanor laws often provide for jail time in their statutes, but that doesn't usually happen unless the situation has truly gotten out of hand and the dog owner ignores the situation. Fines escalate with each offense. In Massachusetts, officials in charge of animal control can order "disposal" of the dog after an investigation, but the owner also has the right to petition the local court for a hearing. While most complaints against nuisance barking are probably legitimate, animal control officers and other officials know that these issues can also arise from "neighbor wars."


Odds are that animal control officers are dog lovers and will be willing to work with you. Many municipal websites offer information resolving your dog's barking issue. Phoenix, Arizona, recommends speaking with your neighbor about the nature of the problem, including time of day, duration and any possible reasons for the barking. San Diego, California, advises dog owners not to leave their canines outside if they're not home. Livermore, California, suggests leaving a radio on low volume when you're out to muffle outside noises that might set your dog off. Of course, training your dog, providing him with plenty of exercise or, if necessary, using a bark correction collar can eliminate nuisance barking. If your dog barks because of separation anxiety, a visit to the vet is in order. She might prescribe medication to alleviate the problem.

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