Reader question: We live in a quiet area but our peace is disturbed by the constant barking of a neighbour's dog. The neighbours seem to go out in the morning leaving the dog to patrol their large garden/orchard. The barking is almost incessant. To whom can we complain?
Dog-barking is not necessarily classified as an offence under French law as it is considered part of the animal’s normal behaviour. However, too much of it can lead to sanctions if certain criteria are met.
Firstly, it should be noted that the owner of the dog is legally responsible for its behaviour and can be punished if it does something wrong, whether the animal is supervised by the owner or lost, article 1385 of the French civil code states.
The barking then has to be considered excessive, as defined in the law R1336-5 of the public health regulations. The rule states:
“No particular sound must, by its duration, repetition or intensity, cause harm or break the neighbourhood’s peacefulness or disturb a person’s well-being in both a public or a private area, whether the noise comes from someone, someone’s behaviour, an object under its supervision or an animal.”
In our reader's situation, it appears that the barking does fall under this definition.
To whom do you complain?
You could first try to settle the situation directly with your neighbour by speaking to them in person. Note also that if they live in a coproriété (ie. a block of flats) you can also address a complaint to the syndic managing body for the property.
If the situation does not improve, you can send a letter to the neighbour, at first using ordinary post.
If this does not solve the problem, you should follow it up with another by lettre recommandée avec avis de réception registered post (to prove that the owner receives the letter).
You should mention in the letter the date that you first spoke to them about the problem or first sent them a letter. A template letter can be found at the bottom of this article.
The formal letter is essential if you want to get the barking to stop through a legal process in court.
It is also possible to undertake a mediation process, using a free service called a conciliateur. This is also a necessary preliminary step if you were to later consider taking action in court.
If the situation does not improve you could ask the mairie to send the municipal police to check the noise levels and assess the situation.
The police may be able to charge them under disturbance of the peace if the noise is deemed intense, repetitive or long-lasting, or tapage nocturne (nighttime disturbance) if it takes place in the evening.
They may decide to issue a fine, which is a basic €68 if paid quickly or otherwise €180. It is legally possible for the dog to be confiscated.
Finally, you could take the neighbour to court and sue him or her for damages.
You can bring proof including the letters you sent and any other testimonies from other neighbours. It is also possible to pay a legal official called a huissier to make an official assessment of the noise levels, which can also help support a case.
Formal letter template letter to neighbour
Below you can find a template formal letter that you can use in case you wish to send one to your neighbour. The first version is in French, and the second is an English translation.
Permettez-moi de vous adresser un nouveau courrier malgré notre discussion le [insert date] et un premier courrier le [insert date] à propos des aboiements répétés de votre chien qui troublent notre quiété.
En effet, lors de vos absences, votre chien aboie continuellement de [insert time period] et ne cesse de nous importuner par un bruit incessant et pénible pour nos oreilles.
Nous avons d’ailleurs récolté des témoignages de voisins corroborant notre sentiment et constat sur le comportement de votre chien, ces témoignages venant confirmer le bien-fondé de notre demande. Notre démarche ne cherche qu'à établir des relations saines de bon voisinage.
Aussi, nous vous mettons en demeure de faire cesser ces aboiements qui constituent une nuisance sonore au regard de l’article R1336-5 du Code de la santé publique.
A défaut, nous serons contraints d’avertir les autorités compétentes auprès de la mairie ou de la police municipale.
Dans l’attente d’une action de votre part, nous vous prions d’agréer, Madame, Monsieur, l’expression de notre considération distinguée.
Dear sir, madam,
Allow me to again write to you, despite our discussion on the [insert date] and an initial letter sent on the [insert date] about the repeated barking of your dog that disturbs our peace.
Effectively, while you are away from home, your dog barks continuously from [insert time period], which is an incessant irritation and causes a loud disturbance.
We have gathered accounts of other neighbours corroborating our feelings and observations on the behaviour of your dog, and these testimonies confirm the validity of our request.
We therefore formally demand that you put an end to this barking, which can be considered a nuisance under article R1336-5 of the Public Health Code.
Otherwise, we will be forced to notify the competent authorities at the town hall or the municipal police.
We hope to hear from you soon.
Is noisy barking now legal as part of French countryside ‘heritage’?
Neighbours are not liable for storm damage in France