Friday, January 29, 2010

Barking Dogs and Irresponsible Neighbors

For the past several years, I have had to listen to two dogs barking next door. I've asked their owner several times to take responsibility for the dogs and prevent the barking. Until today, I haven't been pushed to the point where I was motivated to file a report with animal control. I have tried shushing the dogs, but of course that doesn't work. I have tried making them uncomfortable with one of those ultrasonic things, but those are a big joke because they only work sometimes, with really small dogs, that have ultra-sensitive ears, and are no more than two feet away from the device. (So if you were thinking those things might help you in a similar scenario, forget it. They're junk.)

This week I decided a water sprinkler spraying a mist of water might train the dogs not to bark on my side of the irresponsible neighbor's house. Instead, the dogs just played in the water and kept on barking. However, the presence of the sprinkler caught the attention of the owner. This is someone who cares so little for her pets that she leaves them outside all day, every day, to bark and beg for attention from anyone who walks by. She has never, to my knowledge, bothered to walk the dogs, and there is a growing, stinking collection of dog poop in the corner of the yard that she has not bothered to clean up for months. But when she noticed that her dogs were being discouraged from barking by water mist from a sprinkler, which isn't even a fraction of the discomfort imposed by the rain, snow, and even hail storms that have pummeled her dogs, because she leaves them outside all day, every day, then she suddenly has cause to care about how her dogs are being treated. I reminded her that if she had obeyed the law and responded to the complaint to keep the dogs from barking all day, I would have no reason to even try to discourage the barking. Water mist from a sprinkler was the only thing I thought might encourage the dogs to choose the other side of the house for their barking. Again, they just played in the water, so it didn't help anyway.

But when the irresponsible dog owner saw the sprinkler, she decided to march over into my yard and start threatening to report me for all kinds of things that aren't actually a violation of any kind of law, except in her imagination. I told her she could take responsibility for the dogs, prevent them from barking all day long every day, and clean up after them or I would file a report to compel her to control her dogs' barking. Allowing your dogs to bark actually is a violation of the local disturbing-the-peace laws. And I suggested that if she chose not to clean up after the dogs, I'd have cause to ask animal control to come and decide whether they thought her mistreatment of the dogs was criminally abusive. I actually don't know what the criteria are for that, but if it were up to my opinion on the matter, the dogs would be given a new home with someone who wouldn't just leave them outside in rain and snow.

The argument went on with some more screaming about whether she needed to take responsibility for the dogs, or I just needed to put up with it. Then she screamed a threat at me that I just will not tolerate. She threatened to file a report with children's services claiming that she had reason to believe I was abusing my children. Obviously this was her infantile response to being confronted about her responsibility to care for and control her pets, but with all the stories about children's services agencies acting first and investigating later, I can't allow this to dispute to go unrecorded. If only she'd threatened to do bodily harm. That would solve the problem of the dogs and the irresponsible owner since they'd both be taken away. However, the consequence of what she did threaten could be much harder to deal with, so that was the shove I needed to get motivated about filing the report to complain about the dogs.

So, I called a neighbor, who is a detective in a nearby jurisdiction and he suggested that, if it were possible, I should file some kind of "calm civil dispute" report so that there is a record of the incident, if the irresponsible dog owner were to follow through on the threat, for which she has no basis, by the way, because there _is_ no basis. Unfortunately, I was told by the sheriff's deputy, there is no such report to be filed in our jurisdiction, so I couldn't provide any context to the authorities to put her threats in the proper perspective. Our kids are well fed, loved, well clothed, receive individualized education, are immunized against every known microbe on a government prescribed schedule, and have a much larger percentage of the toys they've asked for than I did when I was a kid. None of that even gets within long range radar of what anyone could call abuse. Yet I have to consider the real threat that someone who does not know me would file a report and it's very likely I'd be considered guilty until proven innocent.

The irresponsible dog owner neighbor still refused to take any responsibility for the dogs barking. Her words were "So what? They're dogs. They bark." I have the complaint form filled out and ready to submit to county animal control. She could have chosen to take care of the dogs and obey the law that prohibits their incessant barking, but instead she chose to threaten me. This blog post may not be read by anyone, but it will be published and public today so that if I have to produce a record of how this dispute started, I can just point to this.

If you have had similar problems with your neighbor (regarding dogs or threats), and have found clever ways to handle it, please post a reply. Or, if you have dogs and your attitude is that they should be allowed to do whatever they want, no matter if it disturbs your neighbor, please post a very long reply, that takes you a few hours to write, so I can then delete what you write, because you're wrong. A dog owner is always primarily responsible for the actions of their pet.

No comments: