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The Pet Next Door: How to be a Good Neighbor

For Pet Owners

No pet owner wants to let their pet come to be known as the neighborhood nuisance.

Nor does a pet owner want to be considered a bad or inconsiderate caretaker for their pet.

However, dogs bark and cats can sometimes be a nuisance to neighbors, which can lead to conflicts. These conflicts can also be exacerbated if either side escalates tensions by making threats, calling the police, engaging in passive-aggressive behavior, or taking the other side to court. Once any of these occurs, it is difficult for the relationship to recover and re-find a sense of friendship and mutual respect.

Since we don’t choose our neighbors and we must get along with them, there are a few things we as pet owners can do to minimize the risk of conflict and resolve conflicts once they occur.

The first suggestion—and one that is a responsibility of all pet owners—is to ensure you understand what your local ordinances say and require you to do.

Your neighbor may have every right to complain about a dog barking late at night or coming onto his or her property or any one of a range of issues that could be covered by local ordinances. Knowing your responsibilities under the law will ensure that you take proactive steps to minimize possible disturbances that your pet could cause.

Despite being proactive, conflicts may still occur.

In this case, do not take the issue personally or react with anger or dismissively. If a neighbor has an issue with your pet, try to be respectful and reach out by talking over the issue calmly. A bit of communication and deference can go a long way to keeping the peace.

If your neighbor is unreasonable or you are unable to resolve the conflict, it may be a good idea to turn to a mediator.

A mediator is a neutral observer that helps facilitate discussion that leads to a resolution both parties can agree to. Mediators also tend to be less expensive than a lawyer—many law firms also offer mediation services as do local courts—and can help preserve the relationship rather than create a winner-takes-all result.

For more information on mediation, go to www.nafcm.org.