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Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Posted by Rick · December 13th, 2003 · 8 Comments

Well, law school midterms (for me) are finally over. Last night was my Basic Tax Law final and now I get a breather until the next semester.

I’m going to use it to research the possibility of suing the City of Clovis and/or one of my neighbors.

Before trashing me as typical of just what’s wrong with the law and lawyers today, read my post. If you’ve some other ideas, I’ll be happy to hear them.

The problem over which I’m about to sue has been going on now since the day we moved in just about 14 months ago and I’m at my wit’s end. Fourteen-plus months is long enough to try the methods I’ve been using without getting a resolution.

It seems some of the neighbors around here are deaf. Everyone in our neighborhood owns dogs (including us). In fact, I’m relatively sure that on any given day, there are more dogs around here than there are people. This doesn’t even count the fact that some of these people are apparently dogs as well.

Now, I’m not a dog-hater. Hopefully you figured that out from the parenthetical note in the previous paragraph stating that we also have a dog. I am, however, a hater of dogs-that-bark-incessantly-and-never-ever-ever-ever-ever-ever-stop. I’m also not wild about the people who keep such dogs and ignore the issue. These are big dogs, too, so they bark loudly.

Unfortunately, the biggest barker — both in bark and frequency — lives immediately adjacent to us. As further evidence that I’m not a dog-hater, I have to tell you that we pity Dog. He sits on a cement pad all day. The neighbors have a grassy area, but for some reason Dog is never in it. (I don’t know if it’s because he’s restricted from that area or what. I looked over the fence once or twice last year, before we knew it was Dog, to see where Dog was, but I don’t remember their entire landscaping plan! From what I can tell, it’s mostly cement. There’s a green swimming pool. (At least I think it’s a swimming pool. It actually looks somewhat more like a bed of moss. But it has the configuration of a swimming pool, and every once in awhile, I think I can see that it is one. And once earlier in the summer, I thought I heard someone swimming in it. On the other hand, from the couple of times I saw it, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to swim in it. Maybe, after all these years, I’m the only one with evidence of the existence of Nellie.) During the winter, in particular, I imagine that Dog is quite miserable sitting out there on his cement pad, all alone, all the time.

And alone he is, too. In fourteen-plus months of living here, we’ve yet to figure out Dog’s real name. That’s why we call him “Dog.” We’ve learned the names of several other dogs in the area, because their owners spend time with them and we hear them talk to their dogs occasionally. But Dog is a lonely critter. I suppose we could call him “Mangy Dog,” because I think I noticed once that he has mange. For now, we just call him “Dog” as in “Dog! Shut up!” or “Dog! Quiet!” or, sometimes, “Dog! Ask your white trash neighbors to spend some time with you so you won’t be miserable, lonely and bark all the time!” I’ve actually only seen the neighbors twice — once when I went to ask them if they could do something about Dog and once when I took them a brochure for some kind of contraption that supposedly will stop dogs from barking — but I think that could possibly be more than Dog has seen them. I’m pretty sure about this, because the first time I visited them, they denied having a dog.

We’ve tried things like closing the doors and turning on one of those contraptions that supposedly cleanses the air (used by people who have allergies — and that helps my wife’s asthma — but one of the main reasons I bought it was to create a “sort of” white noise so we could sleep at night). It does create quite a bit of steady (fan-like) noise, which helps, but does not eliminate the problem of having one’s eardrums punctured by barks every 2 to 5 seconds. If we aren’t already sensitized by having had to listen to the Dog for a few hours, it helps us sleep. The problem is that we only have one in the bedroom. Other parts of the house have larger, less “insulated” rooms that are also closer to the dogs. Even watching TV in the living room is sometimes difficult. Besides the good air cleaners, like I bought, are not cheap.

I’ve been tempted to take my trumpet down out of the closet and go into the backyard to play it. I haven’t played for years, so I doubt it would be very entertaining. Besides, I don’t plan to actually play anything entertaining. I figure I’ll just toot it very loudly and (deliberately) discordantly. If I play a song, it might be “Reveille” If the neighbors come out to complain, I’d consider a trade: I’ll stop playing the trumpet at all hours of the day and into the night (stopping before 10 p.m.) if they’ll quiet Dog. I’m tempted to go over and knock on their door at 3 a.m. when Dog starts to bark and again at 6 a.m. (Dog doesn’t always bark at 3 a.m., but he does always bark sometime not long after 6 a.m.) I thought about all kinds of other things, too. But one thing I do not want to do is to do anything illegal. It would be nice if I could also find a way to encourage them to quiet dog without disturbing the other neighbors.

We moved here because this was, supposedly, “upscale.” Previously we’d lived in an area of Fresno — Fresno and Clovis are joined at the hip; if you don’t live here, it can be hard to know where one ends and the other starts — that was less than stellar. My wife’s father was Paul S. Chaffee, affectionately known during his life as “Doc.” He was a veterinarian and had transformed a ragtag collection of animal cages into a zoo. (I’ve written about this and the modern-day plight of the zoo elsewhere.) The City of Fresno re-named it The Chaffee Zoological Gardens in his honor shortly before he died in 1990. We wanted to live near the Zoo, but unfortunately that part of town is largely being abandoned these days to the poor and the homeless. Property values have been climbing as San Franciscans learn that they can buy a house here for about one-fifth (or less) what a similar-priced house would cost. Many endure a nearly three-to-four hour commute, continuing to work there while living here! Consequently property values have been soaring. So we finally abandoned the declining area around the Zoo and moved to an “upscale” neighborhood in Clovis. Or so we thought. Unfortunately, a lot of other folks in south Fresno apparently got the same idea around the same time.

When we first moved here, we called Animal Control or the Police Department whenever we couldn’t stand it anymore. Eventually, this reached the point where we’d call a couple times a day, at least. They all appeared to be helpful…at least in the beginning. At one point, the Clovis Police Department even assigned the case to a specific officer. We’d call her whenever Dog went off. And we were told that these folks were actually being fined. The fines escalate, according to the municipal code here, so each incident must have cost them more than the previous. At one point, we heard they were fighting this in court. And then, suddenly, one day, Dog stopped barking.

We figured they’d lost the court battle. Maybe they did. We didn’t care what happened, because there was actual quiet; well, not exactly quiet, but “normal” and tolerable noise levels such as one expects when living in an ordinary upscale neighborhood. We were happy.

And then, a little over a week ago, Dog began barking again. We don’t know what happened. We don’t know why. We only know that our lives are again lived out in the torture chamber of Dog’s echoing cement-enhanced barking driving its way into our houses where we try, unsuccessfully, to ignore it. And this time, neither Animal Control nor the Clovis Police Department appear to be doing a thing. When we call the Police Department, they say, “That’s animal control’s job. Call them.” (In spite of the fact that animal control isn’t open when Dog starts barking in the morning and the website and phone books say to call the Police Department.) Animal control says, “Well, there’s not much we can do right now” or they take a report, but nothing changes. Abby Spencer, the officer assigned to help last year hasn’t responded to two voicemails spaced a few days apart asking — no, begging — for help.

So usually we just abandon the house for part of the day to go somewhere more peaceful, quieter, like the racetrack or an auto shop. I’m kidding. We go to the library or to restaurants and sit and read. All to get away from Dog.

Now maybe you understand why I intend to spend this winter break trying to find a way to force the issue through a courtroom.

Categories: Social Issues


8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Abi // Dec 14, 2003 at 3:49 am

    Have you considered ratting (pun intended) them out to the SPCA? Surely there are animal cruelty or neglect issues there…

    I never dealt with the SPCA while living in California, but over here in Britain the SSPCA (Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and RSPCA (Royal etc etc) both bring private prosecutions for animal cruelty. At the very least, they may be able to advise you from their vast experience.

  • 2 Rick // Dec 14, 2003 at 11:13 am

    I might be wrong, but I think “Animal Control” and the SPCA are the same thing here. That’s one of the things I’ll be finding out.

    This break is going to be spent either finding a way to get our municipal people to do the job for which we pay taxes (and keeping the peace would seem to be part of that) or finding someone to sue. The idea is if I can give them one-tenth the hassle that constantly barking dog is giving us, someone will finally deal with the problem.

  • 3 Abi // Dec 14, 2003 at 2:51 pm

    Looking at the ASPCA website (http://www.aspca.com/), it looks like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is, like its British equivalents, an independent non-governmental organisation. I presume Animal Control is a branch of the Clovis government. So it’s another avenue of approach…

  • 4 Roger Hopkins // Dec 14, 2003 at 10:48 pm

    We, like you, live in a neighborhood of dog owners and share the noise problem as well as having a poop problem. I have returned poop to prominent places in my neighbor’s (one neighbor’s) yard. However, that didn’t solve anything.
    As far as the noise problem, I haven’t personally done this, but one in-law in another area did. He recorded the barking and then called the offending owners at 2 AM and merely turned turned the tape on.

  • 5 Tammy // Jun 1, 2004 at 9:31 am

    Hi! Really sorry to hear about your problem with the dogs, at this time, I should hope you figured out an answer. My boyfriend and I live near the Santa Cruz Mountains and have the same exact problem with 2 barking dogs. I really feel for the dogs! They are driving us NUTS! We have come across the same problems with animal control and the police and now I cannot even find the civil code to file to go take them to court! If you know this civil code could you please let us know? Even our law library at the courthouse can’t help us and we could not find anything! Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Tammy & Brad

  • 6 Rick // Jun 1, 2004 at 9:54 am

    We’ve found you really just have to make a pest of yourself until Animal Control does something.

    One thing we got some indirect help from was — of all things — the mosquito abatement people! The folks who neglect the poor dog doing the most barking also neglected their swimming pool.

    One day, my wife noticed it was so bad that not only could you not see the bottom of the pool, but green scum was floating on top. When she called the health department, it turned out we weren’t the only ones who had noticed.

    These neighbors are now getting the message that they live in a community and they’re starting to do things to keep us from complaining.

    I’m not an attorney, so I can’t give legal advice. I won’t suggest what you should do. What I did was search for the California Civil Code pertaining to people who make a nuisance of themselves (you can search Google for that) and then wrote a letter to the neighbors containing those codes and a demand that they stop doing it or I would file a lawsuit. And then, as I said, we just kept complaining.

    For the most part, it has worked. We still have occasional problems, but then we just pick up the phone and complain again.

  • 7 Jim // Nov 4, 2004 at 3:35 am

    This is starting to sound like the norm. Its all exactly the same here in Charlotte, North Carolina the neighborhood sounds like a freakin dog pound. These pet owners have no heart and then to pay good money to live here. Thank God we are not buying this house. Before we moved to this neighborhood I came over and sat in the driveway for hours and hours, four, five in the morning nine, ten in the evening. I go home and say O honey this is the quietest neighborhood. Guess who catches all the hell for us moving here!!!! So the only way to stop this is to bribe an animal control officer with a fifty dollar bill. And maybe that will get results. Really I am just guessing or dreaming………

  • 8 frank nance // May 12, 2005 at 9:41 pm

    We have the same problem in orange county, southern california. After 10 months of documentation and video we were told that the d.a. did not think we had enough evidence.
    They dont want to help, they want you to get frustrated and go away.

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