$500,000 Default Judgment Issued Against Defendant Over Barking Dog

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

howling-wolfIn what certainly will be a good civics lesson taught to high school teenagers to prepare them for the world ahead, Seattle resident Denise Horton’s neighbor was awarded a half million dollars in a default judgment in a dispute over her dog’s barking. Denise failed to report to trial, claiming it was a “bunk.”

The bunk caught up to her after the sheriff’s office arrived to serve her with a writ of execution for her house.

The action stemmed from a dispute between Denise and her immediate neighbor Woodrow Thompson who stated in his thirty six page complaint that her dog Cawper barked loudly enough the sound could be measured at 128 decibels through double-paned windows. For reference, 128 decibels is just under the noise level for the takeoff of a military jet. Woodrow claimed Cawper engaged in “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.”

Denise said in an interview: “In my head, everything was so bogus that he’d been doing, I don’t know why, I just didn’t think it was real or something.”

After Denise not responding to process, the Superior Court awarded Woodrow the default judgment. She has since retained counsel in an attempt to have the judgment reversed which despite what some believe to be a frivolous case filed by Woodrow this will prove to be a difficult endeavor especially considering how reluctant state courts are to reverse these actions.

Though the original judge declined to reverse his ruling, a subsequent hearing is scheduled.

By Darren Smith

Source: KOMO News

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

61 thoughts on “$500,000 Default Judgment Issued Against Defendant Over Barking Dog”

  1. This was probably that Judge Hurley who sent the 80 year old lady to the mental ward because she spoke her mind in his presence. When dogs bark people listen. When Sheriff comes by with a summons people should respond. When people don’t respond the Sheriff comes by again to evict and take the property. This is all done under the Taking Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The dog needs another owner and a home in the country. Not a mental hospital.

    [music to the tune of the song: Redneck Mothers by Jerry Jeff Walker]

    Well its up against the wall redneck mothers!
    Mothers who have raised a dog so well.
    He’s 3 to 4 barking in a parking lot.
    Kickin hippies arses and raisin hell.


  2. Something smells in this case. No pun intended. While a dog’s constant barking can be disturbing, I can’t see the how the judge granting a default judgment of $500,000 can be considered reasonable. Even in a default judgment situation when the defendant did not even defend herself. This should be overturned.

  3. It’s easy to agree with DBQ, Nick and the rest who are not fans of inconsiderate, irresponsible, clueless and ignorant dog owners who feel it’s their ‘right’ to do what they please on ‘their’ property. I have had to call the police and animal control numerous times because dogs have been left unattended to bark for hours on end. I have spoken to others who just shrug and say ‘What can I do?’ when dogs are barking at all hours without any supervision. I have had a few confrontations with clueless dog owners who say ‘dogs bark’ and expect that to be a logical reason for their dog’s barking for hours. Invisible fences also create invisible owners who let their dogs run and bark at anyone who walks or drives by.

    Thankfully I lived in suburban neighborhoods that had ordinances and animal control. I have sympathy for those who live near ignorant dogs owners in areas without any legal recourse, Bigger fines and less acceptance of poorly managed dogs may create a more responsible and aware dog owner. I can only hope.

  4. Yes, Paul, the same situation here in the central Valley. Too many people have complaints about barking dogs (you would think this would indicate a problem actually exists) so the city doesn’t want to burden the police with responding to them. Instead, make it a tedious task that doesn’t fix the situation promptly.

    Thanks for the link to the very relevant article on dog barking sound levels.

  5. The neighbor surely has a legitimate grievance. His liberty to enjoy his property in peace and quiet has clearly been infringed upon by an insensitive dog owner with a pet possessing extraordinary barking abilities. But I don’t understand how justice is served by seizing her $500,000 house as the remedy for his grievance.

    If the dog owner were a renter instead of a property owner, what would the remedy be? Would the aggrieved party have a right to seize the property from the landlord on the grounds he failed to control the tenant, who in turn failed to control the dog?

  6. Having been in this situation multiple times, kudos to the neighbor! It is difficult to get through to some dog-owners. Most neighbors would be afraid to do anything for fear of retaliation and just put up with the nuisance barking all day.

    1. Interesting, Paul. Despite the chart, I admit to having difficulties equating dog barking with artillery fire, but that’s me. It’s the incessant barking that drives me crazy. Don’t dog throats ever get hoarse? Obviously a bred-in warning mechanism. That or somebody had a grudge against mankind. Wild dogs (wolves, etc) don’t bark like that.

      I guess the only thing to do is in the still of the night swap their mutt with a pug.

  7. When dogs speak, they don’t just talk to you, they YELL at you in their loudest voice. YOU! GET OFF MY PROPERTY! GO AWAY! And the smallest, most insecure ones are those that bark most often and for the longest time, usually.

    I don’t hate dogs. I hate the noise they make. Dogs can be wonderful, loving and loyal animals who are lots of fun to have as companions. But the noises they make is horrendous and can be maddening to someone who is being subjected to it involuntarily. Dog owners and many other people seem to be oblivious to dog barking or they get used to it and can easily ignore it. But it can be torture to some people, like me, who are sensitive to loud concussive sounds. Dogs barking is irritating at best, is a total distraction when I’m trying to work at home, and even wakes me up and keeps me awake several times a night. This sort of thing can quickly have a negative effect on one’s health.

    Now I know I shouldn’t blame the dogs, since barking is what dogs naturally do. But I do blame insensitive and indifferent people who own dogs and allow them to bark incessantly. One neighbor let her dog out in her back yard every morning about 5:30 to 6:00 am, and every day it immediately started barking and that woke me up. When I complained to her about it, she explained that she needed the dog for protection and his barking let her know there might be a prowler trying to break in. I told her she needed to teach her dog only to bark when there was a person coming over her back fence, and to not bark at every cat walking down the alley (no jokes about cat burglars here) or neighbors walking on the front sidewalk. That was an irrelevant distinction to her. Only when I informed her that the city could fine her up to $2500 dollars if I complained about her dog being a nuisance did the regular morning barking stop.

    And getting any action taken by the city wasn’t easy either. When I complained various different times from several different neighborhoods I lived in, I was informed by the city that their police would not respond to verbal barking dog complaints. This was a matter which would need to have a written complaint filed with the city and be subject to arbitration before anything would happen. True, the result could be a fine as large as $2500, but that would occur only after what would probably be months or even years of legal obstructionism.

    Eventually, I did discover how to get some immediate action from the police. When I would call, and they would tell me they don’t respond to barking dog complaints, I would simply say, “Fine, then I will just shoot it,” and hang up. Within just a few minutes, police would be on the scene, have the dog start threatening them, and they would get ahold of the owner and make it stop.
    Since I never followed through with my threat to kill the dog, being an angry neighbor and getting police to witness what was antagonizing me was all it took to get the situation resolved fairly quickly.

    This Denise Horton has that typical insensitive attitude about it, obviously, since she wouldn’t even bother to respond to the court summons. The amount of the award might seem a bit excessive to some people, but it seems appropriate to me, especially when it makes the headlines and may make people take barking dog problems more seriously.

    1. Tyger – where I live you have to have complaints from two neighbors before they will do anything, and then it is arbitration.

  8. Went on vacation in California. Stayed in relatives million dollar home. Dogs started barking at 2:00am.
    Dogs heard me turning in bed sheets. Next day I had a chat with next door neighbor and 2 dozen friends on Harley motorcycles.
    Fixed the problem and made new friends. Dogs didn’t bark anymore.

  9. Yes, dog barking can drive you crazy, mostly because they never shut up.

    But 128 decibels?

    A lion’s roar goes to 114 decibels tops, measured at a distance of 1 meter and can be heard up to 5 miles away, and that is 25 times louder than a gas powered lawnmower.

    At 128 decibels that dog is competing with a jack hammer. The decibel scale is not linear. Methinks something is amiss.

    1. Shadow – if you want a treat go to the Globe Theatre in San Diego in the summer to the outdoor arena. The stage backs up to the large cat cage of the San Diego Zoo so periodically you can hear one of the big cats roaring during the performances. Not sure what the decibel level is, but they can drown out a miked actor.

  10. Barking dog complaints should be handled through Animal Control. They visit the home, assess the noise, and counsel the owner. Usually they try to work with the owner first before citing.

    This is unreal that someone could lose their home over a barking dog. Obviously it’s impossible for a dog next door to be as loud as a jet on takeoff. It’s wise to address a court summons rather than simply ignore it, but I didn’t know this result was even possible.

    Isaac – that sounds like a maritime version of the Cuckoo Clock. 🙂

  11. I lived on a peninsula for a number of years. Out in the bay there were two huge doughnut shaped floats measuring at least fifty feet across. They were used by the Oceanographic Institute near by for this that and the other. During the year from time to time seals would use them to bask on and to sleep on. Often times I would hear the seals bark a few times in the middle of the night. Then the dogs starting with the closest would respond and you could follow the trail of barking and responding all around the peninsula. It took about an hour before they all had chimed in. Then a half hour or so again it would start again; a seal would have something to say that couldn’t wait for morning. Given the distance and the merry go round effect, it was more humorous than annoying but in some neighborhoods……

  12. Living next to someone with a barking dog is not a joke. It can literally dive you mad. You have no peace and quiet in your own home and going outside is only to make it worse. Unrelenting barking and howling.

    We used to live next to a woman who had a dog that would bark ALL DAY LONG, while she was at work. I worked nights at the time and couldn’t sleep. She refused to believe that her little fluffy wonderkind would be barking after all…..she says….”he doesn’t bark when I’m home”. Well no sh*t Sherlock. He has you home and you bring his fuzzy butt inside in the evenings!!

    Sooooooo. I recorded the dog barking and made a continuous loop. Then, we got some really good speakers and alerted the rest of the neighbors to our plan. Aiming the speakers right at her house we started blasting the dog barking tape at full volume. When she came screaming out of her house……we told her “THIS is the crap WE have to listen to all day long and until she stopped her dog from barking…..SHE was going to be serenaded every night”. Plus the implied we have ways of stopping this barking …..permanently

    I really didn’t hate the dog. He was lonely and untrained. Not his fault. I did…..however…..really hate her.

    After a few nights…..fluffy went to doggy day care during the days she worked.

    Blessed peace and silence at LAST!

    1. DBQ – we bring our dog in when she barks but it does take a little bit of time to first hear her and then get from where we are in the house to the backyard to open the door. Of course, it works both ways, she barks to be let out as well. She has me very well trained.

  13. Having served on a military air station (USMC) I have never heard a dog bark that loudly. I now live in an apartment bldg and yes I’ve heard dogs barking through doors and down a short hallway but cripes it wasn’t as loud as an F-16 or Harrier taking off. Irritating yes but as loud as the above no way.

  14. This is an object lesson is paying attention when the process server arrives at your house. These summary judgments do get overturned but it is going to cost her.

  15. Anyone who has lived next door to a bad dog owner can sympathize w/ the plaintiff. Barking dogs, not the one who comments here, are a menace. I love dogs. I have owned many. But, there are some very bad dog owners, that have no business having dogs.

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