Newsweek – “Ask the Experts”
By Maria Azzurra Volpe On 10/7/23 at 7:00 AM EDT
I live in Southern Oregon and I have a neighbor with a small house and small backyard and 15 full-grown male huskies. He is not directly behind me but we share a corner.
Some background. Until August 27 last year, I was a surgical technician and owned two small businesses in Northern California. I have two sons, one of whom I have conservatorship over. He is 24 years old with high-functioning cognitive disabilities and lives with me. I am single and have been for many years. I ran my businesses while working full-time to provide for my family.
Everything changed on August 27, 2022. While out riding ATVs in the mountains of Northern California in an area called Dutch Flat with my younger son, who is 22, I took a turn way too fast and was thrown into a large cedar tree. I only weigh 100 pounds. My body wrapped itself around the tree and my life flashed before my eyes.
I was knocked unconscious and awoke to the sound of my panicked son’s voice. After a few minutes, I sat up and thought “holy cow I’m alive!” I knew I did have some damage but little did I know how much. I spent the next 6 1/2 days in the trauma ICU. I had fractured eight ribs, and punctured my lung. I’d also broken my pelvis on both sides, broken my lower back, and had a bad concussion, internal bleeding among all the scrapes and bruises.
After six months, I realized I would not be able to go back to work or my businesses, which meant I could no longer afford to live in California. Since travel was painful, we set out to find a house via virtual tours with a realtor in an area we wanted to move to.
After being outbid on home after home, we found a house in a good neighborhood that had been on the market for 141 days. We made a low offer knowing that it must need work. We had the house inspected and it turned out pretty decent.
We arrived at the home in April of this year to immediately find out why this house had been on the market so long. Something that the inspector and our realtor failed to mention. We went into the backyard and were instantly met at the corner of the fence with 10-12 barking and growling huskies. Even our Great Dane ran back to the house.
Fast forward to now. We never get to sleep through a night because of the howling and barking, which is affecting my recovery. It’s constant throughout the day. But the worst thing of all, the owner will not pick up the feces of the dogs. His backyard is all dirt and slopes downhill towards mine and my neighbor directly behind him, so needless to say the poop runs downhill. If you can imagine the amount of urine and feces produced by 15 huskies, it’s bad!
Both my son’s bedroom and mine face the backyard. We are unable to open the windows due to the smell. And the flies are in the thousands, making it impossible to sit on our backyard patio. After inquiring with the other neighbors, there have been many complaints but nothing has been done. I’m a pretty feisty person, and because the market was so hot, we paid a pretty penny for this house and I wasn’t having it. We confronted the neighbor with the complaints and in a very vocal and obscene way he told us to mind our own business. So all of us neighbors on every side of him called animal control and tried to get the ball rolling, thinking that if everybody complained, maybe something would be done. It had been months, and nothing had changed.
But we began to notice that he hits and kicks the dogs, and they do not look healthy. So I went upstairs and started filming from the window. I collected hours and hours of video and took it in. And finally, we are getting results. It turns out he has never licensed or vaccinated any of the dogs. He has been kicked out of two rental places for the same reason and has incurred thousands of dollars in fines. He thought by buying the home he currently lives in he would go unnoticed. The dogs are still there, but the county is working on having them removed and rehomed. Some of the neighbors are complaining that property values have been affected and are talking lawsuit. So I guess that’s something and the dogs will go to better homes.
Karen, Southern Oregon
When You Catch The Offending Neighbor in The Act, Do Not Hesitate to Call The Police
Andrew A. Zashin is the managing partner of Zashin & Rich, where he leads the firm’s family law and international family law practice groups. He has represented parties in some of the rare family law cases heard by the Supreme Court.
I am sorry to learn of your circumstances. The neighbor in question has created intolerable conditions for you, and all of those who live near you. This situation must come to an end, not just for the people in your neighborhood, but also for the dogs in his possession. These animals would be better off as “rescues” and both the dogs and humans in the area would be happier and healthier if this particular neighbor would change his or her ways. So, what should you do?
It seems you have already taken some proactive and productive steps. Specifically, you have organized your neighbors. You have confronted the bad neighbor about the environmental conditions they are responsible for creating. Sadly, this has not been enough.
But it is a first and necessary step. If the neighbor in question is a tenant, I would raise the stakes by speaking to their landlord. It is the landlord’s responsibility to make sure that their tenant is not a community nuisance. Second, you have not only physical proof, that is, the surroundings, but also documentary evidence, and videos you can take to court that prove the unnecessary cruelty meted out to dogs in this neighbor’s possession. This was a smart move.
You should also document the noise, both at night and during the day. Most communities have ordinances regulating the amount of noise permitted and when it is permitted. Noise pollution, like other kinds of environmental pollution, affects the quality of people’s lives. It is something that local governments should, can, and will regulate. Further, when you catch the offending neighbor in the act, do not hesitate to call the police. Most probably the police will make it the dog owner’s job to control his pets.
Third, you have learned that beyond the neighbor’s mistreatment of the dogs, he has not vaccinated his pets, which creates a hazard to others in the neighborhood. This has brought forth a county investigation. One hopes that the country will act to remove the dogs from this negligent owner immediately.
Finally, you mention “lawsuits.” I think you and the neighbors would be well advised to hire a lawyer and pursue several causes of action against this neighbor. Specifically, the diminution of your respective property values comes to mind as a perfect case for damages. Pursuing damages, collectively, for the lost value of your properties is the kind of incentive that often changes people’s bad behavior.
This article originally appeared on Newsweek – “Ask the Experts.”