Q. Hi Law Librarian,
I have neighbors (husband and wife) that walk a large mix breed dog without a leash in the alley in back of our homes. This alley consists of back yard fences and garages. Unfortunately, this dog and my small pug, Honey Boo Boo, hate each other. The dog when passing my yard throws his whole body against the fence barking and growling which then sets off Honey Boo Boo to do the same. I run into the yard and get my dog away from the fence. I have asked my neighbors when this behavior is happening to control their dog either by voice or with a leash and they said they would but it continues. Last week their dog broke three boards and got his head through the fence. I am terrified that this dog will get into my yard and hurt Honey Boo Boo. I hired a contractor to replace the boards and reinforce the fence with plywood in the alley. Now I am out $500. What can I do?
A. Hello Brenda,
A first step would be to sit down and talk to this couple calmly and reasonably. Sometimes owners may be unaware of all of your concerns and now that damage has been caused you can address that as well. Even if you’re sure the neighbor does know about the dog’s antisocial behavior, it may be better to proceed as though they don’t. You may be pleasantly surprised by the neighbor’s willingness to work toward a solution.
Some negotiation tips:
• Make an appointment for a convenient time to talk
• If you think it’s appropriate, take a little something to the meeting to break the ice.
• Don’t threaten legal action. There will be plenty of time to discuss legal remedies if relations deteriorate.
• Offer positive suggestions.
The City of Sacramento and Sacramento County Shave leash laws that require dogs to be safely under control and leashed at all times outside of designated “off-leash” areas including City and County Parks. Owners can be cited resulting in a fine. If this behavior persists you can contact the City of Sacramento Animal Care Services (916) 808-7387 or if you are in the County the Sacramento County Animal Care (916) 368-7387 to lodge a complaint.
Another avenue is mediation, which is a voluntary and informal process in which the Mediator, a neutral third party, facilitates settlement negotiations. The Mediator improves communication by and among the parties, helps parties clarify facts, identifies legal issues, explores options and helps parties to arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute. The Sacramento Mediation Center would be a great place to start.
Small Claims court is also an option for nuisance disputes . It has the advantage of being very quick, with cases typically being heard in only a few months, and being relatively inexpensive. You can sue in Small Claims for up to $10,000, and your damages fall well within this limit.
At the law library, we suggest reading Everybody’s Guide to Small Claims Court in California, a very useful book on the small claims process. Every county in California has a Small Claims Advisor that can assist you with your case free of charge. You can find county-specific court information including Small Claims Advisors.
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