Tips and advice on how to solve the problem of these noisy neighbours with a difference
You've moved to Spain and found yourself a nice flat but there's just one problem...noisy neighbours, but not the type of noisy neighbours you might be expecting. Sometimes when living in a block of flats or in a residential area with a "comunidad de vecinos" (neighbourhood association), as is very often the case in Spain, life can become an eternal negotiation when conflict arises. One possible cause of complaint and conflict could be the continuous barking of your neighbour's dog. If talking it over with your neighbour is not enough to solve the problem, here is some advice to follow in order to put an end the situation and the tension.
When you have a pet at home, you must realise that you are caring for an animal that needs to satisfy its biological needs, and that both dogs and cats are used to outdoor environments where they have the freedom to run, investigate or simply just play. Just as the owner of the pet must meet the animal's needs, he or she must also comply with the Civil Code and the by-laws that regulate the treatment of animals and pets, aw well as the noise between neighbours.
The owners are ultimately responsible for any situation provoked or caused by their pet in the environment of a residential block of flats. In the case of dogs, conflicts may arise because of the noise they generate due to barking.
According to the law firm Ayala & Gonzalez in Madrid, a company specialising in noise pollution and noise disturbances, "the occasional bark is not a matter of complaint, but when barking is continuous and exceeds the noise limit that prevents the neighbouring families from resting, then it is a matter of complaint," and this is due to the consequent damage to health that could be caused.
To know what to do in this situation, the lawyers recommend these steps:
- First of all, talk to the neighbours who own the animal so that they are aware of the nuisance that their dog is causing. "Many times they are not aware of the damage to health and rest that they are causing, and if you speak to them in a calm way and with a conciliatory spirit, then often the owners of the animal will seek a solution to the problem. Professional training can be a potential solution.
- If the problem persists, seek the support of other neighbours who may also be affected by the dog's barking, even if they are affected to a lesser extent. Try to negotiate again, this time in the presence of a witness who should see that you were willing to resolve the problem.
- If an unwilling or unhelpful attitude from the owner persists, or you see that he or she does not intend to act on the situation, call the local police to take noise level measurements and witness the barking for themselves. It is up to the authorities of each council area to set the limit of noise allowed in the locality with their own criteria. The World Health Organization (WHO) sets noise limits during the day (60 decibels) or at night (40 decibels).
- You can then complain to your local council if the noise regulations have not been complied with. The city council can initiate a sanctioning procedure against the owner of the dog.
- In extreme cases, the last available avenue is to go to the civil courts. In these cases, the animal could be moved to a kennel or the owners could even be deprived of the right to use the home, a measure that can last up to three years.
What if I am the one who is bothering the rest of the neighbours with my dog's barking?
A barking dog is completely normal, it is their way of communicating after all. Just like with people, you have to know how to listen to the animal in order to know what is happening to it. If an animal, that by habit does not bark at night, begins to do it continuously, as the owner you need to be aware that it is because something is happening to your pet.
In most cases, it is simply to draw attention to noises or people they consider strange or to ask their owner for some attention if they have been left alone, especially for long periods of time, such as holidays. First and foremost, never leave your animal alone. The animal is your responsibility and leaving an animal alone for a long period of time can lead to so-called separation anxiety.
As a pet owner, you can also seek the help of a dog trainer for proper education if necessary (and choosing that option would probably be cheaper than going to court for civil matters)!