Local Health Officer Training
Section 6: You Make the Call
Case Study 1 - Noisy Cow and Other Animal Concerns
You receive a complaint about a noisy cow. The complaint sounds like a legitimate cause for concern. You prepare by reviewing the appropriate statute and other relevant materials. Most complaints can be addressed by using or combining several statutes. For example, the landlord-tenant issues, dangerous buildings, polluting, malfunctioning sewage systems, automobile junkyards - are very common, and as a result the Maine legislature created laws to address these issues.
If there is little or nothing that appears to directly deal with animal complaints what is your plan of action to resolve the matter?
Resolving excessive noise problems often requires either a municipal ordinance, unlikely in most Maine communities, or reaching an agreement between the parties to correct the problem.
Some statutes may provide a starting point and guidance for less common complaints. One such law can be found in Title 17 M.R.S.A §2802, "Miscellaneous Nuisances." However, this law does not provide a direct solution, but the language contained in the law may be useful in formulating your plan of action.
Even though the town may decide to seek a remedy through the court, remember that the court will defer to the appropriate language in the law to make a decision. In many cases the court will not have to decide if the matter is "legal" or "authorized", because the law defines what is considered acceptable. Here is a section of the "miscellaneous nuisances" law:
“The erection, continuance or use of any building or place for the exercise of a trade, employment or manufacture that, by noxious exhalations, offensive smells or other annoyances, becomes injurious and dangerous to the health, comfort or property of individuals or of the public; causing or permitting abandoned wells or tin mining shafts to remain unfilled or uncovered to the injury or prejudice of others; causing or suffering any offal, filth or noisome substance to collect or to remain in any place to the prejudice of others; obstructing or impeding, without legal authority…” Section 2802