Wild Dogs!
November 20, 2012 10:17 AM   Subscribe

We need your advice about a neighbour’s rambunctious dogs! The house beside us is a rental and the new tenant has 3 big german shepherds. Today, the dogs managed to break a board in the fence that separates the two backyards and they can now poke their heads through the fence. It’s our fence and it’s built on our property, just over the property line. Help me be rational in dealing with this problem.

We live in Arizona and are not sure what laws – if any, pertain to this situation. Who is responsible for paying for fence repairs? Is it us, the tenant or the landlord?

I’d also like suggestions for how to prevent the dogs from doing this again. Is a length of invisible fence an option? If we go this route, who would be responsible for paying for this? How would we approach this with the dog owner? I absolutely understand why some owners would not want a shock collar on their dogs.

The owner is a young man and when he’s gone during the day, the dogs are in the backyard. They bark quite a bit during the day and are moderately annoying. Surrounding neighbours have also complained about the noise. As a last note, the landlord is out-of-state and I think he uses a property management company
posted by TorontoSandy to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
Have you talked to him? Ask him to fix it and tell him its an ongoing issue. and try to calm down a bit, right now you have one broken fence board, they cost all of $2.50 so keep that in mind when talking to him and I bet he will be far more reasonable.

For noise call animal control and the landlord. It's the only thing that works and I've done it to friends even, it can be anonymous

Invisible fencing is not a practical solution here so don't bring it up.
posted by fshgrl at 10:22 AM on November 20, 2012 [7 favorites]

I wouldn't even begin to go the invisible fence option. That's for the dogs' owner decide.

What you need to do is focus on your position. You used to have a fence that effectively separated you from next door. Now, it's been breached by his dogs.

It sounds like the solution is for him to either:

A. fix/reinforce your fence
B. come up with a solution that doesn't let the dogs get to your fence (ie: the invisible fence, but again, that's his call)

If the guy's abusive or just not responsive, don't push it. Talk to his landlord.
posted by philip-random at 10:24 AM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

You will need to send a letter to the tenant AND the landlord/property management company. They are Jointly and Severally liable for the expense to fix your fence.

It's up to your neighbor to keep his dogs contained and not destructive. So no, you can't put up an invisible electric fence.

If the barking gets out of hand, or if the dogs are kept out in unsafe conditions (too hot, too cold) call Animal Control and file a complaint.

Send any correspondance Registered Mail, and if you have email addresses send emails with the same info (you want a nice paper-trail.)

You may end up suing! Which can be fun!

Here's the thing. If it's a new fence, then he pays everything. If it's an older fence, he'll be responsible for the cost of the fence at the time it was destroyed. So if you pay $1000 for a repair, but the fence is 20 years old and had only 5 more years of life in it, you'd be responsible for $800 of the cost.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:25 AM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Just chiming in with, yeah, don't even bring up invisible fencing. Some people use it and it works great for them, but there's a lot of dog owners out there who will take the suggestion about as well as a parent would take "hey, maybe you should try hitting your kid once in a while." It's just a terrible way to start a dialogue.
posted by griphus at 10:34 AM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Send any correspondance Registered Mail...

No, do not send by registered mail. Registered mail is meant for valuable items. It moves under lock and key, and it is pretty expensive. Send your correspondence by certified mail, and request a return receipt.
posted by Dolley at 10:36 AM on November 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

First, go knock on his door, let him know his dogs broke the fence and ask him to fix it and ask him by when it will be done.

Then, when you are having this conversation and getting to know your neighbor, also let him know that they are barking and everyone in the neighboring area is being affected by it.

See what he says and how he responds first. Escalate after that as needed, but start with reasonableness.
posted by Vaike at 10:42 AM on November 20, 2012 [13 favorites]

As a dog owner, I'm extremely conscious of how my dogs are perceived in my neighborhood, and community. So, from that standpoint, a couple questions:

- Does he know that they broke the fence? (This one is extremely important)
- Will this be the first time you've had any contact with your neighbor?
- If not, have you mentioned the dogs before?

I ask these because of my own experiences, where a neighbor was unknown to me until the day that they had a problem, and they then pounded on my door and made demands. I'm not implying you would do anything of the sort, but it definitely established a relationship then and there that he and I were never going to be amiable, and as neighbors, that made things very difficult. All this to say, try to have a genial conversation first, and go from there.

Your mention of invisible fences and shock collars make me think you aren't a big animal person (which is absolutely fine, I should add) But other posters are absolutely correct that mentioning these to the wrong type of animal lover (obviously, I fall into this camp) will provoke an immediate negative reaction, so much so that the conversation will be effectively over.

Having said that, approach your neighbor as you would want to be approached. The tone of your post makes it seem as though you're already feeling a little adversarial about the situation, when he may simply not realize that something has happened. Once pointed out to him, that may make your resolution path far more clear. If he is resistant to helping to make the situation better for everyone, contact the landlord or property management company. But I think you'll find that most pet owners will bend over backwards to rectify the situation, if there is something they can do.

Try not to assume there's apathy or malice aforethought, but don't be a push-over either.
posted by ASoze at 10:54 AM on November 20, 2012 [7 favorites]

I rent a house and have three dogs, one of whom is a fence-board-headbutting asshole. I keep a stash of boards for our part of the fence (because it's falling apart anyway). If they managed to break one of the neighbors' parts of the fence, I would offer them cash to buy a couple replacements - mostly because I'd feel like a jerk offering like $4-7 for a single board - and do what I could to make sure my dogs don't do that again.

If someone else's dogs broke one of my fenceboards, I'd just fix it. If it became a recurring problem I'd have to move on to actually talking about it with them, maybe trying to engineer some additional barrier to keep it from happening, but since I know shit happens and dogs are a pain in the ass I would definitely not come out of the chute with guns a-blazin'.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:05 AM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

Yeah, an invisible fence costs upwards of $1000 and requires dog training - neither of which sounds like your first best bets. Talk to him about the broken fence - you'll know pretty quickly whether he's reasonable. If not, then contact the landlord and let him work it out with his management company.
posted by ldthomps at 11:40 AM on November 20, 2012

My suggestion is contact property management FIRST and see if he is even allowed to have those animals on the property.

Lots of rentals request no pets, and some have limitations on size and number. As pets can and do do damage to rental properties it is in the rental management's best interest to keep tabs on this. If they broke your fence I can imagine what else is going on over there. I used to work for a rental management office and just ONE German Shepherd can totally wreck a property in no time if proper care is not taken.

(I do not care for dogs myself, and if people choose to keep them they should also choose to make sure they are not a pain in the butt for their neighbors or their landlords. Pets are a huge responsibility and way too many folks do not conduct themselves accordingly.)

As far as your fence, just knock on the door and say, "Hey, neighbor, did you happen to notice the fence? Why don't you come out here and take a looksee." Approach it from the point that he doesn't want his dogs to get loose.

Also, is your neighbor's yard also fenced? What is his plan to keep HIS dogs in check? Also, see my first and second paragraph.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:08 PM on November 20, 2012

Talk to the neighbor. He may or may not be aware of the noise and damage. If that gets you nowhere talk to the landlord/managment.
My dogs have put some holes in our fences and I've always taken care of it. The one time I didn't know about it the neighbor left a note on my truck and I took care of it then. But that's just me.
Also, if a neighbor told me to install an invisible dance and put shock collars on my dogs I'd immediately tell them to get fucked. If they tried a second time they'd get popped in the nose. I want to be a good neighbor, but the happiness and safety of my dogs comes way before the stranger next door.
posted by gally99 at 1:56 PM on November 20, 2012

Did they actually break the board or just knock it out? I ask because the typical privacy fence is 6' boards that are just stapled on and really very easy to knock out. Whereas it would take some pretty crazy dog shenanigans to actually break a typical fence board that's screwed to the stringers.

At any rate, definitely don't mention the invisible fence. Take photos of the damage, write a friendly note to the neighbor informing them of what happened and telling them that you'll fix it but asking them to prevent it from happening again, then just buy a $4 board and screw it on yourself. It's not worth the hassle of making them fix it. The main thing is to document it, so if it happens again it will be reasonable to ask them to do something to keep the dogs away from the fenceline. One inexpensive solution would be for them to put up a length of snow fencing a couple of feet away from the wooden fence.
posted by HotToddy at 2:05 PM on November 20, 2012

The damage happened today, yes? But you have a bit of a head of steam about previous days of barking, yes? It sounds like your neighbor has no idea what is going on.

Before you get all het up bout it with him, give him the benefit of the doubt- he can't fix any problems he doesn't know about. So give him a chance to do the decent thing- in many places it can be hard to find a place to rent if you have a dog, especially large breeds, extra especially three large-breed dogs, so you may discover that your new neighbor is quite anxious to be a responsible pet owner and a good neighbor- give him the benefit of the doubt here, and it may work out.

If he's an asshole, then escalate as others have laid out above.
posted by ambrosia at 3:38 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

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