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Page Six of a seven-page article:
How to persuade your neighbors to quiet their chronically barking dogs

Dealing with the Police

If over time, you keep calling on your neighbor to make arrangements to use the inside of your home, at some point, usually sooner rather than later, he will inform you that you have worn out your welcome and that, if you continue to call or come over, he will have you arrested either for trespassing or for harassment. And he will almost certainly try. However, if you make clear to the police, the true circumstances of the situation, it is unlikely that they will be willing to take you into custody.

It's true that law enforcement officials don't have much use for citizens who call to complain about their neighbor's barking dog. But the cops are even less enamored of irresponsible dog owners who call up to report that they are irritated with the people next door, because they keep complaining about all the noise their dogs are making.

As a rule, unless you live in one of those extremely rare locations where there are viable police-administered anti-barking laws in place (if there is such a place), the police are going to resist becoming involved in your barking dog dispute. The only way they would be likely to take sides and try to force someone's hand is if your neighbor with the barking dog can convince them that you are so aggressively belligerent in your interactions with him that your behavior rises to the level of criminality.

Calling on your neighbor can take three forms. You can telephone him, you can go over to his house in person or, if he lives very close by, you can shout to him over the fence or from out of your window.

It could be that for you, for whatever reason, calling on your neighbor in person to make arrangements may not be an option, and after a certain number of telephone calls you may find that your recalcitrant neighbor stops answering the phone. If you do reach the point where you can't go in person and you can't get the dog owner to answer the telephone, about all you have left available to you is to shout to him over the fence.

Shouting over the fence can be a highly effective strategy, because it is almost certain to be as distressing to the dog owner to listen to you shout as it is for you to listen to his dog barking. Also, as long as your shouting consists solely of attempts to make arrangements, you may find yourself on strong enough footing to get the police to back off and simply allow you and your neighbor to shout and bark one another into submission. That is especially true if you explain to the officers that you can no longer reach the dog owner by telephone or by way of an in person visit.

Just be sure that all of your verbalizations to the neighbor consist solely of attempts to communicate. For example, shout "Hey Bob. Nap time. Time to take the dog in." One of my favorite approaches is to shout out passages read from the harm done section of I figure, it's best to regard the occasion as an opportunity to educate my neighbor, who seems so desperately in need of enlightenment.

Very often the neighbor will tell me that he does not want to hear what I have to say, to which I always reply, "I understand that, and I do not want to listen to your dog bark. Can you think of any way in which we can both get what we want?"

You are likely to find that the authorities are far more tolerant of that sort of thing that than they would be of name calling, expletives, and declarations of hate, frustration, or disapproval. Therefore, when speaking to your neighbor at high volume, imagine that everything you say is being tape recorded and that someday a judge will listen to it, and don't say anything that you would not want brought up in court.

In most places, you are at least arguably protected by law when you shout-out your pertinent, non-belligerent, free speech message. As a result, you are likely to find that the authorities in your area are far more tolerant of your shouted attempts to communicate than they would be if you were to resort to blowing a whistle, or using the blast of an air horn to give the noise-generating dog owner a taste of his own toxin.

The problem with the shouted message strategy is that the human voice is really a very fragile thing. Unless you have undergone formal voice training you will almost certainly find that standing in your backyard shouting loud enough to be heard inside your neighbor's house will quickly render you hoarse, and if you continue to do it frequently, over a period of months or years, you could very well inflict permanent damage on your voice.

If you have a decent tape recorder and the right speakers and electronics, you may be able to get around that problem by recording yourself shouting to the neighbor and, then, at the right time, simply playing the recording for the neighbor to hear.

In most places, playing a loud recording of yourself shouting is against the law, while actually shouting at that exact same volume is quite legal. Therefore, you will need to take steps to keep anyone from catching on that they are hearing a tape recording and not your actual live voice. You might want to record yourself saying a number of different things or saying the same thing in different ways. Also, when the shouting first begins, there is an excellent chance that the police will come out a time or two to see what all the yelling is about. However, after assuring themselves that you are not belligerent, it is very likely that, thereafter, they will refuse to come back to investigate similar reports.

Therefore, you might want to wait until after your neighbor has called the police out a time or two before you switch from your real voice to the tape recorded messages.

There is another pitfall that you need to consider before you begin besieging your neighbor with requests for the opportunity to use your home, and that is the doctrine of unclean hands, which says, essentially, you can't expect to get a big judgment against someone in court if your own behavior has been something less than exemplary. Therefore, if you think you may eventually want to sue your neighbor over all the noise, be sure to read about the doctrine of unclean hands and consider it carefully before proceeding.

Of your three options, going over to the neighbor's house is the most likely to get you in trouble with the police. Calling him on the telephone is the least risky, and calling out loudly to him as you stand on your own property is right in the middle. Obviously, since bombarding your neighbor with your recorded verbalizations is illegal, it also is going to be a bit riskier.

I have been told by legal experts that, if you were to keep it up long enough, you could be arrested for repeatedly calling on the dog owner regardless of which of the three approaches you used. On the other hand, quite to the contrary, other legal experts have assured me that, under the circumstances I have described, you would be well within your rights to go on reaching out to the dog owner indefinitely, using any of the three methods. And could safely do so without fear of arrest. Although, there is little chance that the police will tolerate your use of tape recorded messages, should they somehow discover that you are doing that.

I think that, in truth, more than anything else, how the authorities react to your entreaties to the dog owner will depend on how well you present yourself.

I know many officers find repugnant the idea of standing idly by while the victim is pushed beyond his limit, and then arresting him when he pursues his only alternative to submitting to the abuse. It is a sentiment I share. Being as the laws don't allow the police to protect the victims, law enforcement should just get out of the way and let the injured parties take measured and reasonable steps to clear the problem up themselves.

But you would do well to keep in mind that police officers are individuals who hold many divergent views, and you can be arrested for anything, even when you are well within your rights. Also remember that even if the charges are eventually dropped you could still spend a fortune on attorney's fees and see your life turned upside down. So keep your wits about you.

If the dog owner calls the police, then you need to be careful how you present yourself to the officers. Stay very calm and focused and, when you speak to them, be more than respectful, be friendly. Explain what you are doing and why, and point out that the entire situation is under the control of the dog owner. All he has to do to bring your endless appeals to an immediate end is to take responsibility for the untrained dog that he brought into your residential neighborhood.

It is a standard part of the pattern for the irresponsible dog owner to first try to provoke you into an aggressive act and, failing that, to make up wild tales of provocatively belligerent things that you supposedly did and said. You can almost count on him doing that eventually. That is why it is essential that you remain calm and polite at all times.

From the moment of your first meeting with the dog owner, you should assume that every detail of your every interaction will eventually become known to the police, and behave accordingly. Don't ever do anything you would be afraid for them to find out about, and don't lie to them about anything you have done. Lying to the police is an arrestable offense in many places and every time you are caught out in a distortion of the truth, it erodes your credibility and makes the officers doubt everything else you have told them.

Nonetheless, no matter how gentle your demeanor and reassuring your words, if you adopt a strategy of calling repeatedly on the dog owner, it is par for the course for him to report to the police that he believes that you represent a threat to his physical safety. If that happens to you, point out to the officers that if the guy really believed that you posed a serious threat to his safety, he would stop behaving abusively and correct the problem instead of forcing you to come back over and over again. And assure them that the minute he takes responsibility for his dog and returns control of the inside of your home to you, your communications with the dog owner will come to an immediate end.

Despite all I've just said, it is still possible that the law enforcement official on hand will tell you that the next time you contact the dog owner, you will be arrested for harassment or trespassing or whatever other misdemeanor charge he thinks fits. If that happens, point out to the officer that you have no criminal intent. You pose no threat to the physical safety of the neighbor, or to his dog, or his property, and you have every reason to be in contact with him. Indeed, it is the dog owner who has created a situation in which you must make arrangements with him before you can use your home. And you are simply there doing what he had forced you to do, as you politely ask that he take responsibility for his dog, so that the unhealthy conditions he is creating inside your home might be brought to an end. Therefore, clearly your interactions with the neighbor are not criminal in nature. Remind the officer that the civil court holds hearings on the issuance of restraining orders precisely for the purpose of dealing with this sort of situation. Bring it to the officer's attention that the civil court is the more appropriate venue for settling the problem, and ask him if instead of arresting you, he can't instead tell the neighbor that, if he wants to block you from making future contact, that he must petition the court for a restraining order. If the officer refuses, then, in a friendly fashion, and in a tone that suggests problem solving rather than confrontation, ask to speak with his supervisor and make the same request of him. If that doesn't work you can then approach the police chief and/or the city council.

If you are currently negotiating with a neighbor who is keeping a barking dog, and you believe that push may come to shove at some point, you need to go to the following link and learn about restraining orders: Seeking relief through the civil courts. If you fear trouble down the road, do it now and carefully consider the information you find there. Because forcing your neighbor into a situation in which he must either quiet his dog or go for a restraining order to keep you away could work for or against you, depending on how you handle it, and the situation with the courts where you live. You might also want to consider trying to stem the barking of your neighbor's dog by taking the initiative yourself and going for a restraining order against him.

In any case, if your neighbor demands that you be arrested for repeatedly contacting him, providing that you think to suggest it, the police are more likely to opt for telling the dog owner that he must seek a restraining order against you than they are to respond by taking you into custody. That's because it is the policy of pretty much every P.D. in the nation to participate as little as possible in matters pertaining to barking dogs. Also, the budgets of most law enforcement agencies are so tightly stretched these days that few departments can afford to book people into jail and process them through the courts for crimes as minor as politely asking their neighbors' permission to use the inside of their own homes.

One more point to keep in mind: If you are arrested and charged with a crime that could conceivably result in jail time, you have the right to demand a jury trial. And your local prosecutor is likely to have a hard time finding twelve jurors who would be willing to imprison you for committing such a blatantly non-criminal crime.

Technically speaking, it is possible for the dog owner to place you under arrest himself, but he would probably have an extremely difficult time getting the police to take you into custody. Besides, if he has any sense, he won't do it because the most you could be charged with would be a misdemeanor carrying a negligible penalty even if you were found guilty, which is very doubtful. And after that, legally speaking, you would have him firmly by a vulnerable part of his anatomy because you would then be well positioned to file a whopping civil suit against him. Most cops are aware of that and will advise the dog owner not to pursue that course of action.

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This page on Persuading Your Neighbors is part of Section Two:
the Your Neighbor's Dog section of