How pets cause rifts between neighbours - Veterinary Practice
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How pets cause rifts between neighbours

FRANCESCA RICCOMINI finds herself feeling some sympathy for people who have to put up with noisy dogs next door

ANIMAL stories are a boon for the
press and recently we’ve had some

Nothing can top the strange,
upsetting behaviour of the middle-aged
woman who dumped a sociable cat that
had confidently approached her into a
wheelie bin. But much as decent people
abhorred such conduct, the abuse and
death threats that followed her
“moment of madness”
did little to advance the
cause of animal

Naturally we worry
about “copycat”
incidents but this was
not what most right-
minded citizens would
call a proportionate
response. After all, Lola
was relatively quickly
returned unharmed to
her loving family; while
the public humiliation,
censure and personal
inconvenience the
perpetrator endured
seemed a useful deterrent
to future misconduct.

But Mary Bale was not alone in
gaining a high public profile in recent
weeks. So too did the so-called
“neighbour from hell” who recorded
the dog next door barking and
repeatedly played it to the owner at high
volume in the wee small hours.

Unacceptable noise

Apparently he also took other actions as
revenge for what he considered an
unacceptable level of noise from the
pint-sized pooch but this was the one
that caught the media’s attention. From
his perspective, why not? It was
certainly a novel way to ensure the dog’s
owner got a taste of her own medicine.

Evidently, various reports suggest
that this man was not in a particularly
happy place in his life, which no doubt
affected his ability to tolerate the noise
pollution that accompanies many an
urban canine, no matter how generally
well-behaved and valued as a pet. And it
probably didn’t help his case that the
owner when snapped looked suitably
victimised with her small mutt appearing
harmless, vulnerable and mightily

Poor bloke didn’t stand a chance in
the Court of Public Opinion. Nor
found “guilty as charged” did he fare
well in the Court of Law.

We don’t know all the facts and
there is a proper course of action in
these matters which he should have
followed. But, although this man’s
exaggerated and clumsy response put
him in the wrong, am I alone in feeling
some sympathy for him? He was, after all, apparently a generally pleasant man
and was reported to have been quite
friendly with his neighbour before she
acquired her dog. What then turned him
into the hellish man next door? His
personal circumstances, it would seem,
plus the behaviour of the dog, which in
none of the reports I saw or heard was
actually described. Was all the wrong
doing completely on one side?

Experience leads me to
doubt it.

Noise is
particularly difficult for
many people to cope
with. As a behaviour
counsellor I have been
engaged by a number
of pet-owning clients
after they received
complaints from

Cats were
occasional miscreants
but otherwise these
always involved
barking dogs, and by
the time the owners decided to act Councils
had been informed and official letters threatening legal action if problems
persisted issued.

Generally, these have been caring
pet owners who love their dogs. That
this unconditional devotion did not
extend to their neighbours distressed
them deeply. In fact, to a person, they
expressed nothing short of outrage that
those who lived alongside them, with
whom they had usually enjoyed good
relationships, should have the temerity
to complain about being disturbed on a
regular basis by the sort of irritating
noise that drives many people to
distraction very quickly.

Constant vocalisation

Witness the common practice in
veterinary clinics of phoning clients to
collect their pets early because dogs are
letting everyone know they are present,
distressed, disorientated or, worst of all,
stone deaf! We can’t put up with such
noise for a whole day, so pity
neighbours who are subjected to
constant canine vocalisation week in and
week out.

Different motivations underlie
barking, some represent serious
problems that need attention in the
welfare interests of the pet. But many
“happy” dogs respond with enthusiasm
to passers-by, junk mail deliveries, urban
foxes and squirrels and any other
neighbourhood canine that gives vocal
vent to his or her concerns.

Such responses may be particularly
exaggerated if dogs are bored or lonely,
the common plight of many pets,
especially when owners work long hours. Installing
a dog flap or
leaving pets
outside with a
kennel during
working hours,
whether clients
are home or not,
often seems to
them an ideal
solution. But
even when
owners are
present, the
situation is
because homes
are double-
glazed, back
gardens long and
people spend
their time in
rooms at the
front of the
property. They may genuinely be
oblivious to the fact that it is the
occupants of neighbouring properties
who suffer the full impact of Fido’s
constant arousal and mind-numbing

Blind spot

This is tiresome enough for those with
regular life-patterns but the health and
welfare of shift workers, who must
sleep during the day, can be seriously
undermined. Yet dog owners, whose
conduct is in other ways exemplary,
frequently have a complete blind spot
when it comes to the effects of their
pets’ barking upon others.

Responses may become even more
disproportionate. In our era, when most
individuals have a strong sense of
entitlement, those who want a dog
invariably acquire one, irrespective of
whether their circumstances are suitable
or their choice appropriate.

Even people who carefully consider
every aspect of canine care and basic
requirements before they purchase can be caught out. Therefore, canine noise
pollution seems likely to become a
more, not less, frequent societal

Fortunately we haven’t yet had a
barking-related neighbour death, but
sadly in these stressful times that
possibility may not be quite as ridiculous
as, at first, it sounds.

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