Neighbors' pit bulls jumping on me and shitting in my yard
June 23, 2014 8:51 PM   Subscribe

I live alone in the basement apartment of a row house in a large city; there are four people in the apartment upstairs who moved in fairly recently. We share a small, fenced-in yard, and the layout is such that it is my only entrance, while it is their backyard. With them came their two dogs, pit bulls, whom they allow to run loose in the yard.

My landlord did not find out about the dogs until after the neighbors moved in and was pretty pissed when he found out (from his landscaper complaining about the poop). He (my landlord) told me he was modifying their lease to provide for poop pickup and not allowing the dogs out in the yard unattended.

At first I only minded the shit everywhere. I talked to my neighbors about it, and it went from not getting picked up for over a week at a time to maybe every few days so...progress? I have complained to my landlord too and I know he's talked to them about it.

I also felt (still feel) bad for the poor dogs, they seem like nice enough dogs but I don't think they are getting the care they need. I am almost certain they are never getting walked (they don't have collars and I've never seen them on a leash).

One of the dogs is aggressively playful and will run up to you and jump on you (you know when dogs will stand up and put his front legs on your chest?)--he has done this to me and my guests, and even if his owner is there the owner does nothing to stop him. I told my neighbor I didn't like the dog doing that and he just said "sorry" and whacked the dog on the butt, which sent the dog scurrying away.

This was generally just a small irritation to me until recently, when I saw the news story about the little girl who had been mauled by pitt bulls and was told to leave a KFC because of her appearance. It led me to research the "are pit bulls actually dangerous?" question and I was not pleased with what I found. (I'm talking Wikipedia, not the horror story websites.) I know it sounds silly that it had never actually occurred to me that this much-maligned breed might actually be more dangerous than other dogs, because I've never been afraid of dogs and had heard the "there's no bad breeds, only bad owners" thing. (But these are not good owners!)

So last week, I emailed my landlord about the situation, and asked if he could require the dogs be on a leash when they are outside (as simply having the owner present does nothing to control them). He said he was taking this very seriously, would talk to them and send them an official letter, and keep me updated. I believe he is taking it seriously.

Anyway. Tonight I got home, the neighbors' back door was wide open, and one of the dogs was unattended in the yard. I asked them from the gate to please bring the dog inside. They called him in, said they "didn't know" he was out.

I just don't know what to do about this at this point. Do I think the dogs are waiting to kill me when I take out the trash? No, of course not, but I don't think they are well cared for and, well, they are very powerful dogs that can cause real injury if they get spooked or something.

I am annoyed but simultaneously feel like I'm overreacting/being a wuss--and I'm sure the neighbors already think I'm an uptight, antisocial weirdo. Maybe I should wait it out. I am moving in August...I can continue checking the yard before I enter it to avoid the dogs, I guess. I am also stressed out by confrontation...

What should I do? Is there anything I can do?
posted by picardythird to Human Relations (44 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you have about 6 weeks left here, if you're moving in August? Can you move earlier?

If not, email the landlord again and ask him for an update. Tell him that the dogs are still unattended in the yard and that you are concerned that they are dangerous, being that they are pit bulls.

You will probably have to keep doing what you're doing in terms of checking the yard for the dogs in order to avoid them anyhow. I don't see how you will not be able to do that, frankly. It's instinctual.

Keep reminding yourself how many days or weeks you have left when you find it really getting under your skin. August is very close.

And who cares if they think you're an "uptight, anti-social weirdo"? You don't want to be friends with people who don't take care of their pets anyhow, and being on polite terms is just fine for neighbors. It doesn't sound like they are combative, so try your best to put out of your mind what they might think of you. It's not really your business what they think of you anyhow. They have no bearing on your life in the big picture and are just random strangers.
posted by sockermom at 9:00 PM on June 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

You've already done the right thing by getting your landlord involved. Stay on your landlord about this. You've got plenty of leverage, since they moved the dogs in without his knowledge or consent, and since it appears he is sympathetic to your position.

I'd call your landlord, ask what's happened since he sent the letter, and tell him about this recent unattended dog situation.

You are not overreacting. Dog crap that isn't picked up and loose dogs are, at the very least, a nuisance, no matter what breed they are. Who cares what your inconsiderate neighbors think?
posted by sevensnowflakes at 9:00 PM on June 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

This may sound kinda weird, but...maybe talk to the people upstairs about *you* doing some training with the dogs. If the dogs see you as one of the bosses, you're more likely to be able to keep them off you.

Unfortunately, the best way to train a dog not to jump on you is to train them to jump on you on command, then as a secondary step train them to *not* jump up.
posted by notsnot at 9:01 PM on June 23, 2014

You're doing what you can to make trouble for the neighbors with the landlord.

As for what you can do day to day... well, dogs aren't stupid. If you act like you are supposed to be in charge, they will generally respect that. So, if he jumps up, give him a shove and sternly say "Off" or "No". Don't be afraid of hurting their feelings - if you watch dogs interact, that's exactly how they communicate boundaries. It might take a few tries, but they will learn you are not to be jumped on. Unless they are far along the dominant/aggressive axes, they will respect you if you are firm and clear, and instantaneous.

Most pits are harmless. They are just dogs. And understimulated/underworked dogs are the worst of any breed. You have my sympathies. Good luck.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:02 PM on June 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

I would be really upset in your situation and start calling local tenant's rights organisations about being unable to enter or leave your own house safety. If anything, I think you are under-reacting. (I am a dog person but the one dog that attacked me was a pit with an owner like what you describe. I have met very well-trained pits, it is not so much the breed but the owner they tend to attract) I would also call animal bylaw and enquire about dangerous dog bylaws and describe the behaviour you are seeing from the owner and dogs.
posted by saucysault at 9:16 PM on June 23, 2014 [13 favorites]

You need to be careful. Two dogs form a pack, and when dogs are in a pack they behave differently. The dogs are picking up on your body language, and they are picking up on the body language of the tenants upstairs who obviously do not care (and, let's face it, the reason why people like this get pit bulls is to scare other people, plain and simple).

You are going to need to assert yourself with these dogs. This involves your body language (stand tall, chest out, legs apart, stare at them in the eyes until they look away, and keep staring when they look at you) and your voice (GET DOWN. in a firm, loud voice), and you are going to have to manhandle them if they climb up on you. They have a collar. Use it.

The owners won't care. I can bet on it.

It is very important for you to dominate your space while you remain in there. There is nothing you can do about the dog poop.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:17 PM on June 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I will say that breed panic is not particularly based in reality - there's been some research that shows that pits show up in stories about attacks more than other breeds primarily because news agencies will only put the dog breed if it's a "bad dog". At different times before pit bulls were the "bad dogs", doberman pinschers, german shepherds, and rottweilers were subject to the same kind of panic and discrimination. Soon some other dog will be the "bad dog".

The most aggressive dog breeds (in terms of dogs that bite humans) are chihuahuas, dachshunds, and jack russell terriers.

Anyway, this doesn't solve your problem, but I did want to say deal with the dogs as individuals and not as "bad dogs". They don't sound aggressive at all to me - they aren't growling at you when you walk in the gate or attempting to keep you from entering or anything. It sounds like they are bored, not getting enough exercise, and poorly trained, but not particularly aggressive.

None of this is your fault or responsibility, though. I would continue to ride the landlord. You could also call animal control if they are being left unattended without food or water, but if animal control takes them they are likely to die in the shelter so I would only suggest taking this path if you truly feel they are being abused. It's not the dogs' fault their owners suck.

The easiest thing is to call the landlord every single time you are prevented from entering your house in peace due to the dogs. Make it their problem, since it should be.
posted by zug at 9:21 PM on June 23, 2014 [26 favorites]

" know when dogs will stand up and put his front legs on your chest..."

This is a mild test of in-pack dominance. You are in the pack. As said above you need to need to make it known that it's not ok. Also as indicated above you only need to deal with this for a limited amount of time.

If it were a long term arrangement my solution would be very different. Short-term, buy a box of doggie biscuits and make the same sound or call when you are leaving as when you are arriving and throw them a biscuit now and then. They will be all a-wiggle to see you.
posted by vapidave at 9:40 PM on June 23, 2014 [11 favorites]

If I were in your shoes, I would use the mail carrier's trick of always having a pocketful of dog biscuits. Keep a ziploc full in your car or carry them when you go out.

Let them sniff, then toss it across the yard.

Yes, they'll beg for treats whenever they see you. Isn't that better than the alternatives ?
posted by Kakkerlak at 9:43 PM on June 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

You are adverse to conflict and the dog owners are inconsiderate assholes. You aren't going to fix either of those problems in a few weeks. It is, however, easy to train a dog when you have a bag of treats. Buy a $2 bag of treats and a little treat pouch you can carry with you. When those dogs run up to you and don't jump on you, treat! When a dog sits, treat! When a dog does something you like treat them immediately after. You shouldn't have to do that but I don't think doing much else will get you any satisfaction.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:44 PM on June 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you're nervous about grabbing the dogs or pushing them off, maybe try turning your back on them when they jump up. Usually they're doing it for attention. We trained our large dog that way. She jumped up, we said NO! Then turned our back and wouldn't look at her until she calmed down. Praise and/or treat. Rinse, repeat. But, yeah, it sucks -- you shouldn't have to train someone else's dog.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 9:46 PM on June 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Everyone in this thread who is urging the poster to use dominance "Dog Whisperer" style responses is putting her in danger. The fastest way to get attacked by a dog is to use aggressive responses towards them.

You will have a much faster time getting the response you want by not making them feel threatened. Get some nice treats. If the dog puts his paws up on you, turn around sharply, say no in a firm but not angry manner, and wait until the dog sits down. Once the dog sits, turn back around and give him the treat. Or throw the treats into the opposite side of the yard so they'll go check them out, giving you time to get in and out of the house. If you are interested in this line of training let me know and I'll give some more comments and suggestions.
posted by barnone at 9:48 PM on June 23, 2014 [24 favorites]

People in this thread defending pit bulls and NOT addressing the instance of the dog putting his legs up on you and your guests are doing you a grave disservice.

Similarly, you are correct to be concerned because these particular dogs are not trained or controlled.

Exercise caution for the next month+, then move out.

They are potentially dangerous pups under the circumstances, but you can avoid major headaches by moving out quietly and being careful.
posted by jbenben at 10:00 PM on June 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


Do NOT attempt to train other people's dogs.


Number one, both suggestions open you up to drama and legal liability. Feeding someone else's dog (that you have openly complained about) opens you up to EXTREME AND NEAR IMMEDIATE LEGAL LIABILITY.

OP, keep you head down and stay safe. Move out.
posted by jbenben at 10:05 PM on June 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

And that's not to say that I don't viscerally understand the fear and frustration at not being able to enter your own home in peace.

Chihuahuas bite more often, but a tiny 8lb dog nipping at your legs is very different than a 70lb pit (or two of them, in your case!) barreling at you full speed ahead. Chihuahuas might draw a bit of blood but larger dogs can do much more damage.

It's an intense feeling and you're not wrong to feel worried about two untrained, under-exercised and unsupervised dogs who may end up feeling like they're protecting their property. In general they seem like they have not shown any aggressive behavior, and might respond to some very basic "OFF" training by you, king of delicious treats. On the other hand, using "dominance" methods is a sure-fire way to escalate the situation instead of calming them down. I say this as a very experienced dog foster who has had both pits and chihuahuas, and many dogs in between.
posted by barnone at 10:06 PM on June 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

An untrained, unsupervised dog is potentially dangerous. Two dogs are even more dangerous. Large dogs are more dangerous than small ones. Dogs who have never hurt anyone can attack for no clear reason. These are statements of fact. Most dogs have never bitten anyone and never will. But pit bulls were bred to bite, with extremely strong jaws, and NOT LET GO. There is a reason that people who want to seem tough and want to scare people choose pit bulls.

Given the above, there are some specific warning signs that would worry the sh*t out of me: You have to enter "their" territory to get into your home. They are disciplined by violence ("whacking"). They aren't walked, so they have pent-up energy and sensory deprivation. They approach you and jump on you.

In our small community we have had a spate of dog attacks, from previously pacific dogs; the results are horrific. You may feel the odds will ever be in your favor, and perhaps they will until August 1st, but for me the results of a losing the bet would not be worth it.

If I were you: First, stop thinking you're somehow a wimp, or a bad person. This is Serious, Grown-Up stuff. Call your animal shelter and describe the situation, so they have a record of your complaint. DO NOT ENTER THE BACK YARD IF THE DOGS ARE THERE. If the owners are also there, insist the dogs go inside with the door closed. Insist. If the owners are not there, call Animal Control, say it's an emergency, and wait until they arrive. If they can't/won't come, call 911. I'm serious about this. Professionals who deal with animals will take it very seriously. I've worked with animal rescue, and responders will not take it out on the animals; even kill shelters will make every effort to find better homes for the dogs before they take any other steps.

You are not being silly. It is a potentially highly dangerous situation, and you are keeping yourself safe. Good for you.
posted by kestralwing at 10:52 PM on June 23, 2014 [29 favorites]

Don't bring treats and for God's sake don't just toss treats at a group of dogs. Our dogs will actually scufflle over treats in that scenario and they are besties. That's asking for a dog fight.

Trust your instinct, most dogs are not vicious. Most aggressive dogs are obviously aggressive or weird- standoffish, fearful, growly, barky, skittish etc. Worst of all is the silent, tense staring posture. They don't run up to you wagging their tails and looking for pets. There are a million videos on YouTube showing dog behaviour, the best ones are from vet schools, SPCA and the like. Check them out.

From your description, your neighbors dogs sound more like the "stupid friendly oaf" type of dog, but no one can tell over the internet. The easiest thing to do is to never enter the yard when theyre loose. Get your neighbors cell number and call them if the dogs are loose. Or call your landlord and Animal Control.
posted by fshgrl at 10:55 PM on June 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

You are not being a wuss. They are terrible dog owners and they are putting everyone at risk by their behavior. Call animal control and ask if there is anything that they can do about it.
posted by myselfasme at 11:21 PM on June 23, 2014 [9 favorites]

I have a happy German Shepherd mix who likes to jump up when she's excited to see someone, so this is something I'm working on when people come over. My best advice just for discouraging the jumping on you is: Don't offer your hands by pushing them away with your hands. My understanding is, that that's telling the dog "we're gonna play the bat at each other with our paws game." Pick up your knee to block the dog, or as above, turn your back.

I know how you're feeling... I live in a neighborhood that provokes a mix of paranoia and justifiable fear about loose dogs, and resentment about poor guardianship behavior. I can imagine how aggravated I would be if it were in my space. I would be insane.

If I were in your situation, I would ask the neighbors if it was ok to give the dogs treats, and though, yes, it's absolute shit that you "have" to train their dogs, a little treating could go a long way for your peace of mind just as far as the dogs potentially hurting you.

You could carry a dog deterrent spray. These come in many varieties, only some of which are painful to an animal sprayed. Also, try to educate yourself in the ways that will make you feel better equipped to deal with this stress. Check out dog body language. Reading about breed threat levels isn't going to help you deal with what's in front of you, I think. Don't freak yourself out. (And I am a total breedist actually Sheps 4 Lyfe :P )
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:27 PM on June 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have about as much sympathy for the argument 'It's not the dog, it's the owner' as I do for 'Guns don't kill people, people kill people'. Which is to say, none.

The fact is, your chances of being seriously injured or killed if you're attacked by a pit bull are exponentially higher than your chances of being seriously injured or killed if you're attacked by a Chihuahua. Act accordingly.

I agree with making this your landlord's problem. Put it in writing and send it by registered mail that you will not be entering your yard if the dog/s are outside unrestrained. Ever. And that you will be calling your landlord's mobile every. single. time. you try to get in and find unrestrained dogs. If he is not able to make the neighbours either keep their dogs inside or on a tether, then he is effectively keeping you from entering your own house, and you will escalate things legally.

Do not engage with the dogs. Do not throw them treats, try to befriend them, try to train them, or anything else. The extent of your interaction with these dogs should be to ensure that they are physically unable to harm you. Period.

If you were able to avoid being around these dogs for the next 6 weeks, I'd say just do that and suck it up. But they stand between you and the only entrance to your home? Screw that. Not okay, even for one week.
posted by Salamander at 12:25 AM on June 24, 2014 [9 favorites]

Mod note: Several comments deleted. People need to be addressing the OP with direct advice to help solve their specific problem. Please remember that this isn't a discussion, debate or chat space.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:43 AM on June 24, 2014

Just call the animal care and control when you see the dogs loose in the yard if you need to get in or out. If you get no response, call the cops.
posted by zia at 4:11 AM on June 24, 2014

Ask the neighbors to purchase some temporary dog fencing to separate the dogs from your walkway. That way the dogs can be outside off-leash and you can get into and out of your home unmolested.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:37 AM on June 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Let's say I come home, the dogs are out, and I don't see the owners to ask them to bring the dogs back in, and I call animal control--what then? What actually happens when you call animal control?
posted by picardythird at 5:11 AM on June 24, 2014

They take the dogs away. Then the owners have to go make an argument why they should be able to take them home.
posted by zia at 5:41 AM on June 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Nthing DON'T try making nice or bribing the dogs with treats. That is potentially very dangerous. Large dogs in a pack are nothing to mess around with. Call Animal Control and/or the cops. If the dogs block you from entering your home, call 911.

Chances are Animal Control won't euthanize the dogs right away; what they usually do is give the owners a chance to take them back and train them, unless the dogs are judged to be an immediate danger.

I love animals, so I understand the reluctance to call Animal Control out of fear of euthanasia - but don't let your soft heart put you in danger! Get the authorities involved. It's the only way to deal with people like your neighbors.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:26 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

BTW, the time to call Animal Control is NOW while the dogs have not done anything dangerous and are eminently trainable/adoptable. The sooner you call Animal Control, the better the outcome for the dogs.
posted by zia at 6:28 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

As a woman, and a relatively small one at that, I would not hesitate to call animal control if I found dogs like that in my yard. And a big dog putting its paws on my shoulders? That to me would be an assault unless it was my very own dog that I knew 100% was just expressing affection. These dogs need training and their owner needs to do it, not you. Animal control, I hope, can compel him to train them.
posted by mareli at 6:31 AM on June 24, 2014

I would really need to see the dogs in action to be sure but it sounds like the dogs like you and are excited when you come home. Jumping up, especially right when they see you coming home, it just the dogs asking for some attention. Usually the way to deal with it is to turn around when they jump up and say, "OFF!" Then, when they get down, turn back around and praise them, pet them, etc.

Since you're probably not comfortable turning your back on these dogs, I would just ignore them until they do what you want. The important part is that you MUST reward them for acting appropriately. After a week or two, you should be able to get them to stop jumping. After another week, you should be able to get them to sit.


You'll be able to get them to do darn near anything in pretty short order in that situation (though they'll be vibrating with excitement while they do it).

The dogs want attention, they need to learn that they can only get it by acting a certain way.

From the way you describe their behavior when you come home, I wouldn't be surprised if, something "spooked" them that they'd either run to you for help or put themselves between you and the danger. And it does sound like the dogs lucked out and somehow got socialized to people reasonable well (since they greet both you and strangers in about the same way) so they probably aren't going to attack you and you'd get plenty of warning if they were.

I'm reasonably confident that it would work but, don't try to train these dogs if you're not comfortable (they aren't your dogs after all) and you're moving in August so it won't do you or the dogs a ton of good anyways.

Besides all that, it going to be better for the dogs long-term if they can be re-homed. It's not at all your responsibility but, were I in your shoes, I would make it my mission to get those dogs taken away from those owners. If your city's animal control website is anything like mine, there won't be any dogs available for adoption, just a long, constantly changing list of recently adopted dogs so you can do this without fear that the dogs won't be placed in a better home.
posted by VTX at 6:32 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is not your job to train or otherwise deal with dogs, cats, rats, lions or mice. You don't sound anywhere near up to or experienced enough to be interacting with these dogs.

Your lease comes with an inherent guarantee of 'quiet habitabilty' which includes safe, unimpeded access to your apartment. It is your landlord's responsibility to provide that - you should not need to seek it from the neighbors.

Seeing that that avenue has failed, the next step is indeed animal control. Just like if the neighbor's plumbing was flooding your apartment and the landlord shrugged - you do what you have to do to keep yourself safe first.
posted by Dashy at 6:46 AM on June 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

This is a dangerous situation for you. You don't have a clear path to your domicile that is dog-free. This is your right.

I will say this about Pit-Bulls, many leases forbid them, mostly because the landlord's liability insurance won't cover injuries caused by Pit-Bulls. So if things go south YOU might be able to own the apartment building in the future, especially since the landlord and the offending tenants are on notice.

The next time they're in the yard, do not get in there with them. Call Animal Control, or the police and make a complaint.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:01 AM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is there any way your landlord could fence off access to your entrance so the dogs can't reach you? I don't have a very clear picture of the layout and it might not be possible, but aside from evicting the other tenants (which could take longer than the remainder of your tenancy) or getting the dogs taken away it seems like the best possibility. It really doesn't seem likely that the dog owners are going to change their behavior.

As a stop-gap, can you get the dog owner's phone number and call them if the dogs are in the yard when you need to enter or exit? It sounds like they agree at some level that the dogs should be inside at those times, but they just "forget" or "don't realize" the dogs are outside. It sucks to have to make extra effort to compensate for other people's crappiness, but it might be workable as a temporary solution.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:16 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

You are clearly not confident enough to train someone else's dogs. I don't say this as an insult, I mean that trying the "OFF," treats, etc method that people describe above ONLY works if you are confident and consistent. You are scared and the dogs will pick up on that and see it as weakness. Everything will be fine... until it's not, and then you will have horrible scars, at minimum. Don't go in the yard while the dogs are there. Call whomever you need to call to get this resolved - neighbors, landlord, animal control, 911, in that order.
posted by desjardins at 8:23 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

What actually happens when you call animal control?

It depends where you're located and who constitutes "animal control." Because you live in a large city, this may be more difficult to answer. But for the most reliable answer, you can call animal control and ask them. "Calling animal control" does not have to be the same thing as "calling in animal control." (Although I agree with others, you probably should.)

By the way, Google the KFC story that you mentioned. It has been updated.
posted by cribcage at 8:28 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is there any way you can move early? It seems like you have very good grounds break the lease, and the landlord is probably on your side here, and wouldn't want to fight, given the alternatives. Is the new place available at an earlier date?
posted by instead of three wishes at 8:49 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

You know, after reading all of the other responses, I have a few more thoughts:

A lot of people are telling you to train other people's dogs in various manners - that's kinda nuts here. You don't seem experienced with dogs and you didn't sign up to own one. These aren't your dogs, you don't have control over them, you don't know how they react to food or being yelled at or aggression or whatever crazy stuff people are telling you to do. Plus if you aren't familiar with dog body language, how will you know if it's helping or hurting?

A lot of other people are telling you that pit bulls are dangerous!!!11 and to call animal control, get the dogs removed, and be done with it. That's wildly overreacting. The dogs have shown no aggressive tendencies and they are in a fenced yard. You're also setting yourself up for some retaliatory behavior from your neighbors if you escalate the situation like this and their dogs taken away. Plus the dogs are innocent victims in this situation and the same breed panic that scares you scares away potential adopters and adult pitbulls rarely make it out of shelters alive.

The only reasonable response here IMO is to make this your landlord's problem. If you really feel uncomfortable entering the house, call the landlord every. single. time. the dogs are out and do not enter until they are brought inside. If you really feel the need to escalate and go the animal control route, own up to it and inform the neighbors you will be calling animal control on them if you ever see their dogs unsupervised again. Again, this is likely to lead to retaliatory behavior, so I really think sticking to riding the landlord is the smart option.

Dealing with this for 6 weeks is totally obnoxious and not okay and I'm sorry you find yourself in this situation. But on the upside, it's only 6 weeks. You'll be outta there soon.
posted by zug at 8:50 AM on June 24, 2014 [9 favorites]

I think you should send a certified letter + email to your landlord demanding additional fencing IMMEDIATELY and alerting him that you will be calling the police/and or animal control due to his negligence to provide you safe access to your apartment.

You should notify your neighbors of same. Tell them that until the landlord puts up additional fencing, you will call animal control/police every time you come home and the dogs are off leash OR their back door is open.

To the neighbors, blame it on the landlord. It is ultimately his fault.


Because the backyard is the sole entrance to your apartment, the backyard is not a backyard. It is a Common Area that all tenants share. Most buildings require dogs to be leashed in common areas.

Frame this to your neighbors as a failure of the landlord's. Presumably he rented them a house with a private backyard, when in fact, it is no such thing.

(PS - although the KFC story turned out to be a hoax, there was another mauling last week (Florida?) where 2 dogs rushed out of an open back door and attacked the owner's grandson in the backyard. The owner was arrested.)

Weird stuff happens all the time and training these pups or analyzing their safety from moment to moment is ZERO responsibility of yours.

Demand additional fencing. Notify everyone you'll be calling the police unless the dogs are safely leashed at all times they are outdoors.

Report your landlord to whatever housing violation bureau is relevant to your jurisdiction, too.

You don't have safe and free access to your apartment! Your landlord has failed to act appropriately. This is what housing complaints are for!!

Write those letters and make those phone calls.

I would even stop in to the local police precinct, explain the situation, and ask them how you should handle it (911? Non emergency number?) when you come home and the dogs are loose, or when you want to go out and the dogs are loose. They'll let you know the proper way to handle these instances.

I can't believe you are dealing with this.

Please reframe this in your mind from a neighbor squabble, or dog lover vs. non-dog liver, or whatever else is going on in your head.

You can not get into or out if your apartment freely. This is a violation of your lease and of housing laws. Your landlord is responsible for fixing this immediately. Make him do this.

Certified letter and visiting the local police department are the first steps.

Good luck!
posted by jbenben at 8:59 AM on June 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

The dog feces is also very likely a major health code violation, and you should report your landlord for this, too. Usually, this is a Health Department Code Violation because your rental is a commercial enterprise, but call around to determine the correct agency to report this to in your jurisdiction. Cite the code violation in writing to your landlord, too.

I'm sure your landlord means well, but this is a business for profit he is running. There are laws. The area in question can not be both a private backyard AND the sole entrance and exit to your unit.

Don't let anyone reframe this into a personal dispute between neighbors or anything like that.

Your landlord is violating his business contract with you and your neighbors, and cashing the checks!!

He's responsible to provide your neighbors with a private backyard (if that was their expectation) and you with safe and free access to the unit he rented you. This situation is not your neighbors' fault, even if they lied to him about having dogs. If they lied, then he is responsible for demanding the dogs leave the premises immediately or starting eviction proceedings against the new tenants. The law allows him to do this if the dogs are not on the lease. He's being lazy by not sending your neighbors an official demand letter and then following through on eviction if they lied to him about the dogs and they fail to comply.


I guess what I'm saying is that maybe your landlord means well, but somehow this has been reframed away from the core issue, which is your landlord's legal responsibility to you.

Focus on the core issue of your landlord's legal responsibility towards you, and let the rest take care of itself.
posted by jbenben at 9:38 AM on June 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yes, nthing what jbenben says. Besides the fact that you didn't sign up to train dogs, it's also not your place to train someone else's dog. This is the landlord's responsibility. You are guaranteed a safe place of lodging in your lease. Heck, you could very well break your lease or withhold rent over this (which you might want to try for July, until your landlord makes major changes).
posted by Bluestocking_Puppet at 9:42 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

My advice was not about training them, but just dealing with them so you can safely get in your home.

People say "oh, these are just dumb oaf dogs," but that's coming from the perspective perhaps of people who socialize their animals. These dogs are not socialized, and unsocialized dogs, when in a pack, can do *anything.*

Maybe calling animal control is the thing to do, but that is definitely going to escalate things with your upstairs neighbours. I'm not saying "don't call animal control" but you would have to approach that strategically (warning your neighbours, warning your landlord), otherwise even more strange things can happen.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:44 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm also coming from the assumption that you hold next-to-no leverage with your landlord. You're moving out FFS, why would s/he be motivated to help you out all that much?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:45 AM on June 24, 2014

Make sure you know the law where you are. There may be an unattended dog law -- in Omaha, they can't be left unattended for more than 15 minutes outside, even if chained and behind a fence in the owner's yard. There are almost certainly laws about dog waste. Find out what to do when those laws are violated (it may be the humane society; it may be animal control; one or the other will be able to tell you.) And then follow up.

Call the humane society. In a lot of places, they will respond to this sort of thing with a letter saying "This is your first warning. This is the law. If you don't obey it, you risk getting your dog taken away."

I deal with unattended and barking dogs in exactly two ways. First, I leave a nice note. Then I call the humane society. 90 percent of the time, the first step works. If you need to go to the second step, that has worked for me in every case but a few. And in those final few, the people eventually got kicked out or in legal trouble because of their dogs.

It also sounds like its a landlord issue. I have pressed landlords hard on this, because I don't have a contract with my neighbors, I have a contract with my landlord. If the neighbor's dog is affecting my experience in the apartment, I give the landlord a short time to take care of it, and then I insist the landlord give me a break on rent. If you want to see a landlord take care of a problem, make it cost him or her money.
posted by maxsparber at 1:41 PM on June 24, 2014

"You're moving out FFS, why would s/he be motivated to help you out all that much?"

Because if anything happens to the OP while the dogs are loose, the OP can and should sue the living daylights out of said landlord.

Liability is a powerful motivator for propety owners, and a certified letter requesting proper legal relief from this situation will make the Landlord take notice.

Also, just because the OP is moving out, a new tenant will move in, and the problem will remain.

Most of the people I've known personally with injuries from dog bites serious enough to require a trip to the ER, were people not afraid of the dog that bit them. Even if the new tenant isn't afraid of the unrestrained dogs, it doesn't mean liability isn't a factor.

Putting in additional fencing is a lot cheaper than evicting the new neighbors or paying out on an injury settlement.
posted by jbenben at 6:17 PM on June 24, 2014

Just this morning I was viciously attacked by a "friendly" and well-cared-for (ie trained, socialized, stimulated, not neglected, kept as a pet -- not a watchdog -- by a family with a baby who they trust with the dog, &c.) pit bull -- an American pit bull terrier, to be exact. It lunged at me unprovoked and mauled my leg (despite it being on a leash) and then lunged again for my arm after it was pulled off my leg. I've only been home from the ER for a few hours and I'm a bloody mess, literally and figuratively.

One can argue about whether pit bulls' reputation for aggression is warranted, but there is no question that pit bulls are strong, heavy animals that sink their teeth in and pull with their weight when they bite. Claiming that chihuahuas are "more dangerous" is idiotic considering the relative damage they can inflict. Any dog may be aggressive, but a dozen chihuahua nips would not compare to what happened to me this morning. Its teeth connected through the flesh (not just the skin) of my thigh.

I don't know what your best option here is, but please, PLEASE be careful. The pit bull that attacked me as I was walking down the sidewalk did so with no warning, and did not want to let go. And that was a single, well cared-for dog. The ones in your yard are a huge liability.
posted by Westringia F. at 9:16 PM on June 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

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