What are the real, quantifiable damages associated with dog barking? I have had MANY folks email me about a recent civil case. Apparently, a dog owner loses a $500,000.00 lawsuit over their allegedly barking dog.
- Woodrow Thompson, plaintiff.
- Denise Norton, defendant.
- Cawper the superbarker.
"In a sprawling 36-page complaint, Norton's neighbor Woodrow Thompson
alleged that Cawper is known for "raucously, wildly bellowing, howling
and explosively barking" and that he is an outrage, with intentional
infliction of emotional distress -- and that his barking caused
"profound emotional distress."
I am with you there, brother! People often use their dogs to project aggression, since almost everyone knows that aggression of all types via dogs is perfectly acceptable. Indeed, my ex-neighbors across the street would respond to complaints about their dogs by moving them to their front yard so as to increase the noise level in my home even further. This type of behavior is so common in these sorts of cases it is now my default assumption.
"Thompson's complaint suggests Cawper is capable of barking at 128
decibels through double pane windows. According to Purdue University
research, that would mean Cawper is louder than a chainsaw, a clap of
thunder and just a hair quieter than the takeoff of a military jet."
That may be a bit of an exaggeration. I think the world record for loud barking is ~113 decibels. Consider that a Decibel is a logarithmic unit: For example, 110 decibels is NOT 10% louder than 100, it is MANY TIMES AS LOUD. This would mean that Cawper is generating MULTIPLE TIMES more sound energy than any other dog recorded. I believe your typical superbarker generates 105 decibels, still enough to damage human hearing in close proximity, and carry for long distances and through solid objects.
Not that I dismiss that portion of the claim out of hand: They keep breeding pit bulls bigger and bigger.... why not keep breeding barkers louder and louder? It is only a matter of time before we have 200+ lb pitbulls in our neighborhood, so a superbarker loud enough to shatter concrete may not be far behind! Forget about mere noise trespass and harassment - Fido can now level buildings with his exclamations!
On to the legal aspects: One interesting thing about this case is that the plaintiff did NOT win the case on merit. The case was won by default. The defendant did not take the complaint seriously, and ignored it. She flat out disregarded the summons. Who are those lowly peons to complain about the almighty Dog?
I am a relatively experienced litigant: You do NOT ignore a summons! Even a frivolous case can and will be won if you don't defend it. If the case truly is frivolous, for example if the defendant had the dog debarked years ago and can prove that, then they need to offer that as an affirmative defense AND perhaps counter sue the plaintiff for harassment. DO NOT THUMB YOUR NOSE AT THE COURT.
So, the takeaway is this: There is a BIG difference between (A) doing the right thing, and (B) doing the wrong thing and getting away with it. If you let your dog bark all the time you fall squarely into the (B) column. While dog owners enjoy "noble" status (for now) that does NOT grant you unlimited political and social capital. Keep up the bad behavior and you WILL get into trouble eventually. Do not be wildly overconfident when dealing with the lower (i.e. non dog owning) underclasses as they CAN rise get you if they try hard enough and/or you are irresponsible enough.
QUIET YOUR DOGS.