What to do about the neighbour’s dog that barks incessantly? I frequently get frantic calls from owners that have received complaints and from neighbours who want to know what they can do about the next door barking dog.

In my experience, the quickest way to put a dog-owner ‘on his hind legs’ is to put an anonymous, horribly scribbled note on a crumpled up piece of paper in their post box. Before you contact Law Enforcement be sure that you can back up your complaint, as they too will be doing rounds all the neighbours, to see if the complaint is valid or just a vendetta against the owners.

My suggestion is that before you see RED and feel like contacting Law Enforcement or writing an anonymous note on which you take your frustration out on, is to go to the neighbour and kindly inform them of their barking dog and offer a possible solution. They might be totally unaware of the problem, seeing that most household members are at work all day. Don’t threaten them with fines and Law Enforcement, this usually has no constructive results, but the start of a neighbourhood feud. Kindly let them know that there are applied animal behaviorists that can assist them in modifying the barking problem. Maybe they can look into doggy-daycare or until the issue is resolved maybe the dog can stay with a family member or friend during the day. Inform them on what days and when during the day the dog starts barking and also when it does not bark.

Let them know why the barking is bother you, you might be studying, you might have a baby whose sleep cycles is being disrupted or you might have an office at home. Let them know your complaint is valid and not just pettiness.

If you are the recipient of such an accusatory note, go and speak to ALL the neighbours and ask questions related to the barking. Sometimes we find that neighbours have completely opposing stories. The answer to these questions could assist a behaviourist determine the underlying cause of the constant barking. Tell them you have received a note and would like as much information about the barking as possible to give to the behaviourist that you are intending to phone.

Let them know you are taking it seriously and that you are going to look into it. Also if you know who wrote the note, tell them you were unaware of the constant barking and will be doing something about it. This at least will decrease the tempers associated with the situation. People are much more sympathetic once they know you are doing something about it.

If you receive a complaint from a neighbour, take it seriously; don’t wait for Law Enforcement/Metro Police to arrive on your doorstep. Once that happens the legal ball is on the roll. According to a Law Enforcement officer of the City of Cape Town the following steps can happen once they receive a complaint.These steps/by-laws can differ from district to district.

* They will visit the ‘offending’ dog’s owners and give a written warning; at this point the complainant can stay anonymous.

* Usually after a reasonable amount of time; and according to them this is about 10 -14 days; if the barking still persists, issue them with a fine of R250,00. (Fines are variable.)

* This fine of R250,00 can be paid or disputed in the court.

* If owner pays the fine, they admit to guilt. If the fine is not paid and the owners do not appear in court to dispute the complaint, they will issue them with a summons.

* If the owner has paid the first fine and the barking persists, and you want to take the issue further, Law Enforcement will require you to submit an affidavit. (Affidavits can also be required from the complainant before the first fine is given.) They will then receive a second fine of +/- R500,00, which can be paid or disputed in court. (Once you have written the affidavit you loose your anonymity; as your affidavit will be used in court, should it go to court.)

* This fine can then be paid or disputed in court.

* If the problem still persist after that then the owners are summons to court, as well as the complainant. It is then up to the Magistrate to decide if the dog needs to be removed from the home or what steps are to be taken next.

All though procedures can vary from district to district it remains an unpleasant and disruptive process for all involved. Nobody likes to take time out of their all ready busy day to go to court. Rather try and settle matters amicably. It is difficult, but possible.

Copyright Claire Grobbelaar