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Proving Your Case in Court


In barking dog cases, very often, there is disagreement between the parties involved as to whether or not the offending canine is, in fact, barking, with the neighbor saying that he is and the dog owner saying that he is not. For that reason, every jurisdiction should have in place a network of readily available Noise Monitors, who can quickly come out to establish with certainty the dimensions of any barking infractions (or other noise problems) that are reported to the authorities.

However, far from providing barking victims with an easy means of demonstrating the extent of the abuse to which they are subjected, many cities obstruct the complainants efforts to establish the dimensions of their barking problem by writing laws that require such a high level of corroboration that the aggrieved parties are unable to prove their cases in court. (See The Most Common Types of Barking Laws)

Unfortunately, in court, proof is the name of the game, because the judge will not order your neighbor to quiet his dog until you first prove that the dog is barking.

This section, then, was created to provide you with information as well as some tools that will increase your chances of being able to prove your case in court.

Proving Your Case

There are several ways that you may be able establish to the satisfaction of the judge that your neighbor's dog is barking disruptively.

  • Audio recording
  • Video recording
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Paper and pencil data gathering

Documenting Barking Frequency through Audio Recording

I once heard described an incident in which a man with a high-testosterone stereo system was plagued by a neighbor's dog that barked all day while his owner was at work. The owner refused to believe his dog was as disruptive as his neighbor said, so the bark-abused victim tape-recorded the offending dog during the day. That evening he set his mammoth-size stereo speakers out on his porch and played the recording of his neighbor's barking dog at a realistic level, so it paralleled the volume of the actual dog vocalizing. Then, he let it play until the owner, thinking he was listening to someone else's dog, came over to complain about the unbearable racket.

It's a great story, and a true one I'm told. But in that case, the annoyed neighbor who made the tape was an experienced recording engineer with all the right equipment. Sad to say, when you record your neighbor's dog with your home tape recorder, you may find that the sonorous bark that echoes through your house will come out on the tape as a small, faint sound in the distance.

The better your audiotape captures the experience of living near the dog, the better your chances of eliciting the judge's sympathy. Therefore, it might be worth your while to contact your local electronics store and ask their advice as to how you can make a high-quality, low-budget recording of your neighbor's barking dog.

Documenting Barking Frequency through Video Recording

Other than taking the judge out to your property where he can experience it for himself, videotape may be the ultimate way to convey to the court what it is like to live in close proximity to your neighbor's dog.

Legally speaking, you should be okay videotaping your neighbor's dog as long as you do not trespass on his property and you film only that which is in the public view, or that which is in open view from your property.

Remember to adjust the camcorder so the date and time will appear on the tape.

Presenting Eyewitness Testimony

After videotape, eyewitness testimony may be the most effective way for you to prove your case. And in most jurisdictions the court will require you to provide eyewitness accounts of the dog's barking behavior, in addition to whatever mechanically-produced evidence you may be able to offer.

Any eyewitness is better than no witness, so the testimony of family and friends should be helpful. However, from a credibility standpoint, it would probably be better if you could get some of your neighbors to testify in court to help you prove your case. Unfortunately, most complainants soon discover that those living around them absolutely, positively, emphatically, do not want to get involved in any of the legalities related to their barking dog problem.

Therefore, if you cannot enlist the cooperation of your neighbors, you may want to hire a pillar-of-the-community type to come out to your house, witness the situation and testify in court as to what he observed. Among others, an off duty or retired cop or fireman, a notary public, or a well-respected clergyman would fit the bill nicely.

Proving Your Case with Paper & Pencil Data Gathering

With paper and pencil data gathering, you divide up the space on a piece of paper to represent discreet time segments, usually one-minute or five-minute intervals. Then, for each interval, you simply put one hash mark on the paper to represent each time the dog barked during that time period.

Once you have collected the data on paper, the judge can tell at a glance exactly how many times the dog barked, approximately how much time transpired between barks, and the time of the day or night when the barking took place.

Paper data collection can be an especially powerful tool if you sit down with your eyewitness and gather the information with him. That way, when the process is complete, your witness will be in a position to testify with certainty, exactly how much barking he witnessed, and the information will be in a form that the judge can easily comprehend.

This website offers two forms you can print out and use to gather data: the one-hour form and the eight-hour form.

The One-Hour Interval Recording Form
The one-hour form is divided into one-minute segments. It is the most useful when you are dealing with extremely high rates of barking. It is also the form of choice if your town has a consecutive disruption ordinance in which, by law, the dog is only allowed to bark for a certain number of minutes in a row.

The Eight-Hour Interval Recording Form
The eight-hour form is divided into five-minute segments. It will allow you to create a paper record of the dog's barking over an eight-hour period. You could, for example, use it to convey to the judge the frequency with which your sleep is disturbed during the course of the night.

More Information

Click here for more information about how to prove your case in court.

This page is part of Section Three:
the Law section of