When all you're hoping for is some peace and quiet, there may be nothing more distressing than a constantly barking dog in your Indiana neighborhood. Before you act, be aware of the laws regarding barking dogs and disturbing the peace. Knowing your rights may make a frustrating situation seem more manageable.
In 1969, the United States enacted the National Environmental Policy Act, followed by the Noise Control Act, officially known as the Noise Pollution and Abatement Act, in 1972. These two pieces of legislation were among the first to recognize the problem of noise pollution. In 1975, Portland, Oregon wrote the first noise control codes, which set the precedent for other cities and counties around the nation to follow. Sources of noise pollution can vary, from a nearby airport to a neighbor's raucous party to, yes, a relentlessly barking dog.
Noise Control in Indiana
Indiana's state government, like many states, does not control noise ordinances, and no single law covers the entire state of Indiana. Instead, the noise disturbance laws are made and governed at the local city and county level, and each city is governed by its own set of regulations. The ordinances, violations and fines in Bloomington may be very different than in Fort Wayne, for example. Also, the methods used to measure sound or the definition of what is considered to be a disturbance may differ from one city or county to another.
Most city ordinances uphold a "quiet time," usually between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. during the week and 12:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. on weekends and national holidays. In addition, many towns have a maximum decibel level as part of the local noise ordinance. For example, Indianapolis Code states that it is unlawful for a person to make "loud, unnecessary or unusual noise, or any noise which either annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health and peace or safety of others within the city." This includes "the keeping of any animal or bird which, by causing frequent or long-continued noise, shall disturb the comfort or repose of any person in the vicinity." This code does not detail the consequences of keeping such animal.
The city of Columbus says it is an actionable nuisance if the barking is continuous for more than a 20 minute period. In Fort Wayne, it is considered to be continuous barking for 15 minutes, or barking for 20 minutes in the span of an hour.
If a dog's barking becomes incessant, your first step is to contact your local police department's non-emergency line or animal control unit. Briefly detail your position and ask that an officer come out to survey the situation. An officer may begin with just a warning to the offender, or choose to issue a fine or citation.
Ultimately it is up to each city's police department or animal control unit to respond to, evaluate, and follow through according to its own laws. Many cities even require more than one household to call or write their complaints before investigating the matter. If, after continued efforts on your part to bring the barking to a halt using your local agencies, the situation has not yet been resolved, you may need to either concede or have a friendly chat with the owner of the dog to find a compromise each of you can live with.