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When the Barking Won’t Stop: Man’s Best Friend or Public Nuisance?

I’m of the belief that dog is man’s best friend. But when the pup in question isn’t yours, sometimes they can do some pretty annoying things.

Many of us have awoken in the middle of the night due to the woofs and howls coming from the yard next door. Perhaps you’ve gone out to get the morning paper, or to check your mail only to step in a not-so-nice surprise left by Fido from next door.

Naturally, most cities will take action when a dog is vicious or attacks someone. But what can you do when the source of your displeasure is less malicious and more of an irritation? Of course, the first step you should take is to calmly and courteously address the situation with the dog’s owner. After all, this is Texas and we pride ourselves on being neighborly. If the owner can’t (or won’t) address the issue, what’s next? Are there any laws against Rufus’ relentless ruffs, Lassie’s leavings on your lawn, or any number of alliterative annoyances? In many instances, there are.

The city of Houston for example, passed an ordinance to address these problems. If a neighbor’s dog is prone to “continued barking or howling” or “repeated defecation” on another’s property, there is something you can do. Under Houston’s ordinance, with enough infractions, a dog can be declared a public nuisance.

When the barks won’t stop and you’ve finally had enough, you can file a written complaint with BARC animal enforcement. The complaint must be very specific with regard to time, place, and incident(s). Upon receiving the complaint, the director will then conduct an investigation to determine if the pup’s troublemaking rises to the level of a public nuisance.

If the dog is determined to be a public nuisance, the owner will be notified and given an opportunity to fix the problem. The owner is given 30 days to rectify the bad behavior at issue.

However, if the owner fails to get their pet under control, and the same problems persist, the director can actually order the dog to be removed from the city. The owner is given an opportunity to appeal the order within 5 days, and given an opportunity for a hearing. After all, a person can’t be deprived of life, liberty, or puppy without due process of law. Following the hearing however, the decision of the hearing officer is final. That means the pooch will have to pack up his toys and treats and find a new home.*

While it may seem harsh to some, laws such as these are really quite practical. After all, your neighbor’s right to own a pet shouldn’t constantly interfere with your right to get a good night’s sleep or enjoy a Saturday barbeque without all the noise pollution from the yard next door. Having clear rules can serve to keep rogue citizens from taking matters into their own hands and actually harming the dog. Many cities around Texas have similar ordinances. So if you have an unruly pup, be respectful of your neighbors and take time to fix the problem.

*Be mindful, though, that some subdivisions have deed restrictions concerning dogs, similar to the lease provisions of apartment landlords barring certain breeds or limiting the number of animals.

Please do not rely on this article as legal advice. We can tell you what the law is, but until we know the facts of your given situation, we cannot provide legal guidance. This website is for informational purposes and not for the purposes of providing legal advice. Information about our municipal law practice can be found here.

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