Dealing with a loud animal repellant
November 24, 2009 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Dealing with a neighbor's loud audio 'animal-repellent' that you can hear, even though you aren't supposed to be able to.

I am posting this question for a friend:

This person lives in VA, and has an issue with an audio animal repellant that a neighboring townhome is using to keep cats from pooping in their yard. Essentially, an object moves in range of the sensor, and it produces a high-pitched noise that only the cats are supposed to be able to hear. Problem is, she can hear it, and says it drives her nuts, and that since none of her other neighbors can hear it, they pay no mind to her complaining. She's tried sneaking into their yard and turning it down to a volume that she can't hear, but the neighborhood cats begin to poop in the neighbor's yard so the neighbor turns it back up. There's also a 'no fence over 3' tall' rule for her community, so she can't put one up between the properties to block the sensor.

Question - if a cop comes out and does a decibel reading, will it show up if it's in an inaudible frequency range and would that count as violating a noise ordinance? Are there any other suggestions you have for dealing with it?
posted by empath to Home & Garden (16 answers total)
Decibel meters don't measure frequency.
posted by dfriedman at 12:29 PM on November 24, 2009

She could always contact the maker of the product and see if they have any suggestions.
posted by patheral at 12:35 PM on November 24, 2009

At the very least, I'm guessing there are local noise ordinances and/or CC&R's that determine what hours something like this can operate.
posted by rhizome at 12:44 PM on November 24, 2009

If you go to a vet and ask for dirty, filthy, stinky dog hair, they'll be happy to provide it the next time they clean the cages. Stuff it into cut-up nylons or mesh bags, tie them off and place them around the perimeter of the property. This will prevent cats (also raccoons, skunks and frequently other dogs) from trespassing.

Then turn the dang thing down.
posted by Shepherd at 12:44 PM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Decibel meters don't measure frequency.

A decibel meter does not measure frequency, but it will have a frequency response profile, and there is a good chance it may not be sensitive enough at high frequencies close to the limits of the human audible range. Has she tried contacting the neighbour to see if he would consider replacing the device with one she cannot hear? In the meantime, a white noise source can help mitigate the annoyance factor.
posted by Behemoth at 12:48 PM on November 24, 2009

Decibel meters don't measure frequency but they do measure *at* a frequency. Well, over a broad but non-infinite range of frequencies, which may or may not include ultrasonic.

Aside from the sensitivty of the meter, maybe she should check the local noise ordinances, or call a cop or city hall to ask, whether the frequency of the noise matters.

Maybe she could talk to the neighbor about it. Some repellers have the power to tune the action - adjust frequency, direction-cone, etc. so maybe together they could find a way to set it up to bother your friend less.
posted by aimedwander at 12:49 PM on November 24, 2009

A nuisance is a nuisance. Rat her out to the cops. My town recently had a crazy lady (who, as a blogger for the local paper, was somewhat of a public figure) who was arrested because she installed ultrasonic noisemakers to drive her neighbor's dogs nuts because they annoyed her. The cops told her to dismantle it, and when she didn't, they locked her up.
posted by scarykarrey at 12:50 PM on November 24, 2009

Any community that doesn't permit people to have fences taller than 3 feet likely prohibits this type of noise maker as well, or will prohibit it once they become aware of it. Even if it isn't mentioned explicitly, I would be willing to bet they have a general nuisance clause in their CC&Rs that covers this sort of thing.
posted by mosk at 12:56 PM on November 24, 2009

I don't think it matters if it measures on the meter or not. It's fairly easy to demonstrate that she can hear the noise and it bugs her enough to call the cops.
posted by chairface at 1:19 PM on November 24, 2009

I had a similar problem with a neighbor when I lived in New York City. I could hear her animal repellent (she had it for squirrels, I think) and she couldn't. I called the city to ask what to do and, as I recall, I was referred to our local police station.

Whoever it was I spoke to said it was one of their jobs: to provide communication at times when it would be too awkward or confrontational for the neighbors to do it directly. I was told they would send her a letter asking her to take care of it.

Again, this is just how I remember it, but the police came by and spoke to me and then went and talked to her. They probably just told her about her crazy neighbor and her dog-like hearing, but hey, it worked -- she turned it off.

It was the same neighbor as in this story. Thank you, NYPD.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:32 PM on November 24, 2009

There's a very similar device operating on the same principle that's designed to discourage teenagers from loitering; the mosquito. Basically, it relies on the fact that people's hearing deteriorates in the higher registers as you age, so teenagers and people in their 20s can hear high frequency noises that older people generally can't (in the 14-18KHz range); and of course, animals like cats and dogs can also hear in that range so it's also used for that purpose.

Despite being in my 30s, I can still hear the mosquito frequency, along with flyback transformers in CRT tvs (I get funny looks when I turn off the idle TV in the teachers' lounge that's making a painful noise that no-one else can hear) so I can fully sympathise with your friend's plight - you can test for yourself to see what your hearing is like here - the 18khz is still painful for me personally.

Unfortunately, although there has been a lot of backlash against the mosquito, it's not generally considered to fall foul of anti-noise laws in the UK or US given that it's beyond most adults audible range, though a few places have specifically banned their use. It's worth investigating, but your friend may want to ask if they'd consider the mosquito 17khz tone as a breach of local noise ordinances before she makes a complaint - it will very much depend upon local law, and how far she's willing to push it. General nuisance complaint may work better than a noise law, per se.

One other possibility before calling in the law is if the device is adjustable; if the neighbour is willing to tune it up above 20Khz, it'll still work as a cat repellent (they can hear up to 64KHz or so) and should then be inaudible to your friend.
posted by ArkhanJG at 2:48 PM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

This noise does not only effect your neighbor, but any younger people in the area as well. Nobody would put up with a lawnmower running all day (and night!) long, why should she put up with this. If the neighbor doesn't turn it down (or off), call the city / cops.
posted by defcom1 at 4:15 PM on November 24, 2009

Instead of turning it down, are there any teenage kids around who might be interested in a little special ops mission? The plan is to steal it, open it up and disable the speaker inside, then replace it with the volume knob still on max. If your neighbor claims to not be able to hear it, then they won't be able to complain about it without having to admit that they can, in fact, hear it. You can just say the animals must have gotten used to the noise and shrug.

Caution: plan contains trespassing, theft, and vandalism.
posted by ctmf at 5:09 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Talk to your police department. They probably have a "quality of life officer" who handles things like this.
posted by radioamy at 5:52 PM on November 24, 2009

Could your friend put something movable, like a large plant in a pot, between themself and the sensor to block it?
posted by Solomon at 10:11 PM on November 24, 2009

ArkhanJG is right on. Recently a study was done with one of these "mosquitos" installed on a London, Ontario, Canada university campus hallway to try it out. Most teenagers could hear it, although some could not. It supposed to be very irritating if you can.
posted by Taurid at 11:20 PM on November 24, 2009

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