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What to Do with Animals That Cause a Public or Private Nuisance

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What is a Nuisance?

Legally, a nuisance can be a public nuisance, private nuisance, or both. Nuisance law restricts a landowner from doing anything that would disturb another person’s or other peoples’ use and enjoyment of land.

A private nuisance would be the disturbance of rights in land that affects a person or small group. A public nuisance refers to the disturbance of rights in land that affects a large group or community.

How Can an Animal Be a Nuisance?

It is not uncommon for a case to be brought on the grounds of an animal as a nuisance. For instance, an individual’s neighbors may not appreciate the sounds of a rooster at the crack of dawn in an urban neighborhood, or constant dog barking.

Animals that are continually allowed to urinate or defecate on another’s property, or people who are not legally able to keep exotic pets but do so in a non-zoo setting may all be cases of nuisance.

When Does an Annoyance Become a Legal Nuisance?

An annoyance becomes a legal nuisance when the noise, odors, or any other objectionable characteristics of the animal begins offend a reasonable person, or interferes with someone’s enjoyment of property.

Courts will consider the following in determining whether something such as a chicken farm is a legal nuisance rather than an annoyance:

  • The social value of the farming;
  • The surrounding area and community;
  • The type of harm the nuisance is causing;
  • Whether the farm was in the neighborhood first, and if the plaintiff knew this before moving near the farm; and
  • Whether the farmer has complied with all local, state, and federal regulations.

Can a Pig or Cow Farm Be a Nuisance?

In certain areas, pig and cow farms may significantly affect others. These types of farms can produce foul odors, noise pollution, vermin, and other types of pollution that can pose a public health and safety risk, in addition to interfering with the peace and comfort of others.

What If a Wild or Feral Animal is a Nuisance?

If a wild or feral animal is a nuisance to the neighborhood, you should call animal control. Animals of this kind, including hostile pets, should only be approached by wildlife officials.

If you attempt to take matters into your own hands, then you risk the chance of hurting another person or trespassing onto another person’s property. Instead, note the appearance, markings, and area where you spotted the wild/feral animal and let your local animal control know.

What are the Penalties for Keeping an Animal Which Becomes a Nuisance?

States vary in nuisance laws and the penalties associated with nuisance citations. If the court finds that you have been keeping an animal that has become a nuisance, you may be ordered to pay hefty fines, or you may just be issued a warning.

First-time offenders may be given a simple warning, and an opportunity to address and fix the problem. A lawyer in your area will be able to provide further guidance on potential nuisance penalties in your jurisdiction.

Should You Seek an Attorney to Help Resolve a Nuisance Issue?

If you need assistance with a nuisance issue, you should speak with a local real estate attorney. A lawyer with experience in zoning ordinances will be able to help you decipher what laws apply in your area, and what the next best course of action is for your case.

Photo of page author Sarah Tipton

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 05-10-2018 02:23 PM PDT

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