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Noisy Dogs and Neighbour Nuisance

Noise from a barking dog may constitute a legal nuisance if the disturbance can be characterised as 'abnormal', a French court has ruled.

Under Article 1385 of the Code Civil the owner of an animal is responsible for any damage caused by the animal, whether it is under their supervision, lost or escaped.

That 'damage' can include noise nuisance from a barking dog, on condition that the barking is of a recurring and inconvenient nature.

Three criteria are used in assessing whether a legal nuisance is being caused - the duration, repetition or intensity of the noise. Only one need apply for a trouble anormal de voisinage to apply.

Article R1334-31 of the Code de la santé publique states: "Aucun bruit particulier ne doit, par sa durée, sa répétition ou son intensité, porter atteinte à la tranquillité du voisinage ou à la santé."

It does not matter whether the dog is owned in connection with work, recreation, or for personal security, or whether in a public or private space.

The courts are particularly attentive to nuisance caused at night, but there are also many instances when nuisance during daylight hours has been sanctioned.

In a case recently heard in the Court of Appeal sitting in Versailles, a complainant brought an action against their neighbour that barking from their several dogs prevented them from being able to make proper use of their garden, from opening their windows and properly entertaining visitors.

In order to prove their case they presented complaints made to the local police, as well as a report from a huissier (official baillif) who witnessed the noise and statements from visiting members of their family.

The complainants were awarded damages of €2,000 by the court and dog owner ordered to ensure proper control of their animals, or face a continuing fine of €100 per day.

French courts are able to order that owners fit a bark collar to their dog, although that was not felt necessary in this case and judges are not infrequently reluctant to order their use due to the health risks to the animal and/or their lack of effectiveness.

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This article was featured in our Newsletter dated 06/10/2017

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