How to deal with neighbour disputes involving pets

Barking dogs can cause a lot of stress for your neighbours, and in terms of local bylaws that exist in some municipalities, noise from dogs is treated as any other form of noise pollution. Many municipalities are taking the matter seriously and are starting to get tough by fining owners and even removing their dogs. The barking may be periodic, such as when the owners are at work or on holiday. In many modern housing developments such as cluster homes, estates and security complexes, numerous complaints are lodged because of the close proximity to one’s
neighbours.

Animal welfare societies receive many vexatious complaints, which are the result of other disputes between neighbours, and sometimes find that the dogs were actually barking for a good reason. Sadly, dogs that bark constantly are often chained up, sometimes without food, water and shelter, and are usually extremely distressed.

The onus is on pet owners to ensure that they consider the safety of their dogs, as some neighbours have been known to hurt or even kill dogs because of excessive barking.

Steps to follow to ensure that your dog/s are not nuisance barkers:
  • Check your dog/s feeding schedule – if they bark mostly at night, and are fed in the morning, reverse the feeding time to make them less active at night.
  • Take your dog/s for basic obedience training and spend quality time with them as this will help keep their minds active and make them more obedient and responsive to you the owner.
  • Allow your dog/s to see out of the property. They often tend to bark at noise they can’t see outside.
  • Hire a pet-sitter or day mother for your dog/s so that they have company when you are away from home for long periods of time.
Another source of potential disputes involving pets relates to the tenant’s right to keep pet/s in housing governed by The Sectional Titles Act 95 of 1986. The onus is on the pet owner to establish whether or not the complex allows animals before deciding to purchase or rent the property. If the body corporate insists on you applying for permission to keep pets, do so
in writing and ensure that you have their response in writing too.

Pet owners must always exercise caution when buying a flat or townhouse under the Sectional Title Act, as it could mean a total ban on all pets, including birds. If the rules governing your property ban animals, and have been filed with the Registrar of Deeds, you can be penalized. The Body Corporate can declare a dispute and they could take the matter to arbitration in terms of the management rules. It must be borne in mind that, if the rules have not been filed with the registrar of Deeds, they are not enforceable and the resident could apply for written consent to keep pet/s.

Since disputes relating to animals often generate powerful emotional responses, professional help may be needed to resolve the situation. Thus, if the problem persists despite your efforts, you may have to resort to legal action, which is expensive. Even if you do go to court, there are no guarantees that you will win the case. Bear in mind that if you live in a property under the Sectional Titles Act 95 of 1986, arbitration is another option to consider – it is usually cheaper and quicker than legal action when it comes to resolving these types of disputes.
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