Bellowing Cattle May Cause Legal Nuisance in Maricopa County
Question: We live in the Rio Verde Foothills area of Maricopa County. Our next door neighbor has a corral in his back yard which 2-3 times a year for a month or two is used as a cattle roping arena. Although these cattle are extremely smelly, the main problem is that the cattle constantly bellow throughout the night. Maricopa County has no ordinance prohibiting in a residential community the owning and maintaining of cattle and other livestock. Is there anything that we can do?
Answer: Although there may not be a violation of a law or ordinance, a neighbor conducting an activity on his property that adversely affects the neighboring property owners’ use of their property has caused a legal nuisance. The neighboring property owner could be required to abate that legal nuisance. In other words, a court could order the bellowing of the cattle to stop in some reasonable manner, and, if stopping the bellowing was not possible, the court could order the removal of the cattle.
Private and Public Nuisance Claims
There are both private and public nuisance claims. A private nuisance occurs when there has been harm to the use or quiet enjoyment of a particular neighboring property without an actual physical invasion or trespass of that property. A public nuisance occurs when the disturbance affects all of the surrounding properties. Local authorities such as the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department could pursue the claim. For example, when someone calls the police because of a noisy neighbor, the police responding to the call would be investigating a public nuisance claim on behalf of all of the surrounding neighbors, and the investigation may give rise to criminal charges. Oftentimes nuisance claims are both public and private, as the facts from a police investigation can also act as evidence for a private nuisance claim.
In either type of nuisance, in order to be subject to an injunction resulting in a court order to stop the action, the interference with the use or quiet enjoyment of the neighboring property must be substantial and continuous. Arizona courts will also attempt to balance the relative hardships to both of the parties involved in the claim. This is true especially when an ongoing business, as opposed to an individual, is the defendant in the claim; the court will attempt to minimize the economic impact on the business. If the roping arena is part of a greater rodeo or roping event business, the court should take it into consideration.
Zoning Restrictions and Moving to the Nuisance
Zoning restrictions are also taken into consideration by the courts in deciding whether to order the abatement of an action, here, a roping arena 2-3 times per year. So if this property is not properly situated in a overlay zoning district that allows for animal sheltering, the court will probably enforce injunctive or other relief because of the bellowing cattle. However, where a person purchases a property knowing that a given operation is located nearby, such as a roping arena, the legal doctrine of “moving to the nuisance” should prohibit a new neighbor from seeking any relief.