How Long Can a Dog Bark Legally? (When To Complain)

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A dog barking excessively can be annoying and frustrating, and you probably have wondered what could be done about it. The question “how long can a dog bark legally?” is a difficult one to answer, since each state and municipal has its own laws regarding nuisance barking. With that said, however, most areas do offer some protection for those dealing with the constant barking.

How long can a dog bark legally?

Several cities, including Hawaii County and Los Angeles, passed an ordinance in 2010 that stated a dog would need to bark for 20 consecutive minutes before a complaint could be made. Other counties in California have passed similar ordinances. In recent years, however, the ordinance was changed to 10 minutes during the day and 5 minutes at night.

This is just one example of how cities are trying to protect their residents from excessive barking. Your location may have different ordinances for dog barking, and you should research your specific location to find out what those ordinances are. You could try searching “how long can a dog bark legally” and then add your city to the end.

How can I find out my city’s noise laws?

The best way to find out whether or not your city has noise laws is to look up the ordinances at your public library, or contact the office of the city manager or mayor. If you live in an HOA, Home Owner’s Association, or have a property manager, consult with the association or the property manager as they more than likely have provision for excessive barking.

Can I call the police for a dog barking? 

Yes, you can call the police for a barking dog. Keep in mind, however, that you should never dial 911 to report a barking dog and instead use the non-emergency number for your local police department. 911 is for emergencies only and calling it when you don’t have an emergency ties up important resources that are needed for actual emergencies and can even cause you legal problems of your own.

What if I call animal control for a barking dog?

Since every animal control has its own way of handling things, the best thing to do is to reach out to your local animal control office. Ask them what happens if you make a complaint about a barking dog. Do they issue a warning? Will they inform the owner of who called in the complaint? Will they give the owner a citation? Do they impound the dog? These are just a few of the questions that your local animal control office can answer.

Image by Mimzy from Pixabay

What happens once a complaint is filed?

Once you file a compliment about the barking dog, the agency handling the compliment will reach out to the owner. This is done either in person or via a letter, depending on who the complaint was made to. A Home Owner’s Association, for example, typically sends out a letter, while the police visit the pet owner in person to let them know about the complaint. If this is the first complaint, the pet owner will usually receive a warning. For multiple complaints, they may be required to pay a hefty fine for their dog’s nuisance barking.

Keep in mind, however, that the actual steps taken once a complaint is filed can vary greatly from one city to the next. Most places typically issue a warning with the first complaint. If they don’t take care of the excessive barking, then the owner may be given a time period, such as five days, to find a solution to stop the barking. With every new complaint, the owner may even be required to pay a fine. If the problem persists, the owner can be issued a court summons, where a judge will determine the cost of the fine.

Some cities have even marked a nuisance barking dog as a minor criminal offense. A Pennsylvania women found this out in 2006 when a judge sentenced her to 10 days in jail because her five dogs’ constant barking was “torturing the neighbors. The judge did, however, offer to cancel the jail sentence if the women could find homes for three of her dogs, according to the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

Can I file a lawsuit for a barking dog?

While there is nothing stopping you from filing a lawsuit, going to small claims court should be a last resort. Remember that a lawsuit can cause more friction in your already turbulent relationship with your neighbor.

Furthermore, trying to find a solution with your neighbor may be a legal prerequisite. Some areas require a demand letter sent to the offending parties that states the exact nature of the problem and what you expect the neighbor to do. In the letter, you should also mention that your next course of action is to take the issue to court if it isn’t resolved.

If you have decided that a lawsuit is needed, make sure to take detailed notes of the excessive barking. Write down the date and time of when the barking begins, as well as the length for which the barking lasts.

Notate anytime you contact the owner, police, animal control, or other important parties about the barking dog, detailing the conversation. Also, take videos of the barking so the court can hear it from themselves.

At what point does barking become a nuisance?

Even if your municipality doesn’t have laws strictly for barking dogs, they probably have nuisance laws, which excessive barking can fall under. The definition of nuisance may refer to the barking only, or it can expand to other issues associated with barking. Some examples include:

  • Barking or whining for more than 10 minutes at a time in a one hour period.
  • Persistent barking that occurs for an extended period of time or persistent barking that happens repeatably.
  • An animal that unreasonably annoys the community, interferes with the quiet enjoyment of the neighbors, or endangers the health and life of humans or other animals. This includes animals that run after, chase, or jump on people.

What else can I do about a barking dog?

If your neighbor’s dog is barking excessively, the best option is to speak to the neighbor directly. Avoid being conformational and merely let them know that the barking is causing issues, such as waking your baby or keeping you up at nights, and politely ask if they can stop the excessive barking.

Try to find a compromise with your neighbor. If the barking only becomes a problem when the pooch is left alone, your neighbor might not even know there is a problem. Remember that you may be living next to the person for a very long time, and it’s always best if you can calmly come to an understanding with them.

If, however, your neighbor refuses to do something about the excessive barking, or you feel threatened by the neighbor, your next best course of action is seeking the help of a third party, such as your HOA, property manager, police, or animal control.

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While every municipal and city has their own specific noise or barking ordinance, most of them state that barking that is consecutive for 10 or 20 minutes is considered excessive and a nuisance. Knowing the answer to “how long can a dog bark legally”, you are better equipped to handle the situation with the law on your side.