Track pet behavior to work out neighborhood disputes

Track pet behavior to work out neighborhood disputes
Photo by Claire Edwards on

Q: I have recently moved into a great neighborhood. Or so I thought. My neighbor’s dog and sometimes their cat get into my yard and do their business. One of them digs holes. I have little kids and worry that the dog might bite one of them. I did approach the neighbor, and they said they doubt it was one of their animals. Should I take legal action? Please suggest what to do, since we are the new kids on the block and I want to make friends.

A: I am sorry that you are having this problem. Because you live in a residential area, several of your neighbors probably have pets. It may not be an issue if someone else’s dog or cat wanders into your yard from time to time. But if it’s an animal that bites or scratches your children or pets, or that leaves waste behind, it can be a danger to your family’s health and safety.

If an animal can get into your yard because the fence is damaged, repairing it may solve the problem. You also can set up security cameras to gather evidence and encourage neighbors to keep their pets out of your yard. You can post signs stating that the property is under surveillance and warn people to keep their dogs off your property.

If a neighbor’s animal has repeatedly entered your property without permission and is a nuisance, you may be able to resolve the matter amicably by having a conversation with your neighbor. He or she may be unaware of the issue until you show them the evidence from your camera. You might, then, be able to work out a solution.

Health and safety concerns

If you’re worried about the health and safety of your family, especially young children, speak to the neighbor in person as soon as possible. Explain what happened and why you are concerned. Try to avoid being angry and confrontational, but make it clear that the problem needs to be addressed immediately.

I hope you don’t have to go down the route of legal action. But if the neighbor fails to resolve the issue, you may have to get the authorities involved. Most municipalities have laws related to the types of animals that residents may own and how they must be confined or restrained. You can check to find out if your neighbor is in violation of any ordinance.

The police department may not be willing to get involved unless there is an imminent threat to health or safety, but you can contact the county Animal Control Department. They may investigate, issue a fine and order the neighbor to address the issue.

In some cases, you may have to get an attorney to send a letter threatening to take legal action if the neighbor does not resolve the matter. If you file a nuisance lawsuit because of a repeated problem, a judge may order the neighbor to remedy the situation and impose a fine.

Talk to other neighbors to find out if they have also experienced problems with the animal in question. If so, multiple complaints may be more effective than a single complaint.

Do not, under any circumstances, harm or threaten to harm the animal or your neighbor. That can get you into a boatload of legal trouble. Don’t leave the pet’s waste on your neighbor’s doorstep, in their mailbox or take any other spiteful action, no matter how frustrated and angry you are.

Lynne French is a Realtor with Compass Real Estate and captain of the Lynne French Team. Contact her at or 925-672-8787.