Good morning,I have a situation that I need some expert advise on.Our area bylaw states that no noise will be allowed between 9:59pm and 7:01 am and there after no noise should be continues for more than 15 minutes.It started last year, our neighbours called the animal control officer about our dogs barking.(we have 2 small dogs and 1 medium) he advised us on methods to control the barking. We installed an anti-barking device but that was not sufficient so we started using the anti-barking collars for training purposes to avoid uncontrolled barking.We notified the animal control officer about this and we notified our neighbours in writing.It went really well with the collars so much so that the barking is well under control (of course they do still bark when they see a stranger at the fence or a neighbourhood cat like all dogs do)We built a smaller play area for the dogs where they can play when I see the neighbours working in their gardens(to avoid the dogs barking at them) I don't leave my dogs unattended outside and when they do play in the smaller area I keep a close eye on them.We don't let them outside after 9:59 pm we only take them out at 4:30am when we get up for work, we go with them and it's a really quick in and out, so they don't bark at all during that time. After that I only allow them to go outside after 7:01 am to avoid a noise violation if they maybe do bark for a reason. (lots of neighbourhood cats)However we got another visit this week from the animal control officer, stating that our neighbours complained that our dogs where barking one morning this week at 6:45 and they where trying to sleep. I advised the animal control officer of all the precautions we take to avoid any unneccesary noise so he is aware of everything we are doing.We are really taking all the precautions neccessary to avoid a really bad situation, because the neighbours threatened us with a lawsuit last year. No one wants to be on bad terms with neighbours.We do everything we can to avoid having these problems, unfortunately it's in a dogs nature to bark now and again and we can't take that away completely. I am really not sure how to handle this situation so any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Country relating to Question: Canada
Everything mentioned in the question.
Hello:I think you are on the right track and you are obviously very considerate neighbours. If you keep doing what you are doing you will likely be able to avoid or at least defeat any claim or bylaw allegation.Usually a bylaw enforcement officer will not try to cite someone for an infringement unless they can confirm the violation for themselves. It sounds like you have some good communication with the animal control officer, and you may want to see if he can or will issue a formal violation to you on just information from the neighbour or whether he would try to first confirm if that information is valid.If there is a formal violation brought, you would be entitled to a hearing or an appeal. If it comes down to your testimony versus that of your neighbours (if animal control will cite on just their word), then all the detail you have mentioned above will be important, as it shows that you are well aware of the noise and animal bylaws and have been conscientious about trying to meet those. If you can be certain that you have not let the dogs out before the 7:01 time, the fact that you have been making these various efforts will help as far as your credibility is concerned.The neighbours can unfortunately proceed as they choose with a lawsuit whether there is a bylaw infraction or not. Whether they succeed or not is the question. To succeed they would need to show that the noise from your dogs is interfering with their use and enjoyment of their property. This is a lawsuit based on the legal principle of nuisance. This is a matter of degree. They are not entitled to absolute silence at all times, and there are certain noise levels and types of noise that a court would recognize as just being part and parcel of living in a community. In most residential neighborhoods there are dogs barking at times, and it would have to be an unusual level or amount of barking to qualify as a legal nuisance. This would not necessarily have to be the same definition as used in the bylaw, and they could possibly succeed in nuisance even without showing that barking was more than 15 minutes, or that the noise was at night. If it was off and on throughout the day, maybe this would suffice.But it seems as though you would also be able to respond very well to such a claim by evidence of the new play area, and that you keep your eye on them and take them in if they start to bark. The neighbour would not be successful on a lawsuit by proving one occasion of barking, as they could be perhaps with the bylaw. If they want to sue successfully they will need to prove a fairly chronic or long-standing problem. The involvement by animal control, without any offence of the bylaw yet alleged, is in your favour. While violation of the bylaw is not needed to prove their case, an absence of any formal allegations is consistent with a lack of legal nuisance. And while a court does not have to follow the same parameters as the bylaws and d find a nuisance with noise occurring during daytime hours, the parameters set by the bylaws still have some relevance as to what a member of the community can reasonably expect in terms of noise, with more noise certainly being permitted during daytime hours. So if you remain alert to the issue of your dogs barking and continue to follow the bylaws, I can not see any other steps that would be reasonable for you to take to try to avoid a lawsuit or prepare for one should that occur. You may want to make some notes as to dates and details so that this is not forgotten, such as when you got the dogs, when you tried the different training methods, first dealt with animal control, the date of the supposed 6:45 incident, and so on. Keep notes in future of anything that may be relevant, as a lawsuit could come a year in the future and details may be hard to recall.Lawsuits with neighbours are very unfortunate. If you neighbours are not aware of the efforts you have and are making to avoid the problem, you may want to let them know, either by an informal chat, or if your communication is no longer at that level, then by a letter or note. They may appreciate knowing that you are very aware of their concerns and doing your utmost to respect those concerns. If matters decline to the point of lawsuit threats again, maybe you would want to propose some more formal setting, such as attending a mediation session together to try to work out some reasonable solution to the problem without having to go to court. Please let me know if I can clarify any point or if you have some follow up question.
with over 15 years experience.