Tremonton, UT asked in Animal / Dog Law for Utah

Q: I got a ticket because my dog or supposedly my dog barked at the neighbor at 11 at night can I fight this

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1 Lawyer Answer
Brian Craig
Brian Craig

A: Noise laws are generally governed by city and county ordinances rather than state law. Under the state statute in Utah Code Ann. § 76-9-102A, a person is guilty of disorderly conduct if the person "makes unreasonable noises in a private place which can be heard in a public place." If the noise could be heard from the dog came from a public place, then this the owner of the dog could be found guilty of disorderly conduct under the statute, which is a misdemeanor.

You would need to check the local city and county ordinances for noise. Many cities and counties in Utah have noise ordinances in place after 10:00 p.m. The language varies by city and county. The penalties also vary from a fine for an infraction to a misdemeanor. For example, Salt Lake County has a noise ordinance after 10:00 p.m.

Besides a city or county ordinance violation which could be brought as a public nuisance by the municipality, a neighbor could also bring a separate action for a private nuisance. A private nuisance claim is based on an interference with the comfortable enjoyment of their property. See Utah Code Ann. § 78–38–1(1). In a private nuisance case, the plaintiff must establish the following elements: (1) a substantial invasion in the private use and enjoyment of land; (2) caused by defendant or for which defendant is responsible; and (3) the invasion is either (a) intentional and unreasonable, or (b) unintentional and otherwise actionable. See Turnbaugh v. Anderson, 793 P.2d 939, 942 (Utah Ct .App. 1990). Some courts in other states have found pet owners liable for private nuisance but no reported Utah case exists. A Missouri state court held that the consistent barking of 16 Australian shepherd dogs, which disturbed the sleep and tranquility of adjacent landowners, was a private nuisance and warranted an injunction barring the owner from keeping more than two dogs. See Tichenor v. Vore, 953 S.W.2d 171, 90 A.L.R. 5th 801 (Mo. Ct. App. S.D. 1997). Similarly, a Utah court could find that consistent barking warrant an injunction for a private nuisance.

In sum, a dog owner could face penalties for failing to control a dog that is barking after 10:00 p.m. The offense would most likely be governed under the city or county ordinance rather than Utah state law. If you want to contest the charge, consider contacting a Utah lawyer.

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