Judge Rules in Favor of Lakewood Dog Park
Barking doesn't break Rocky River ordinances, ruling says.
Turns out that a lawsuit filed in 2007 against Lakewood by Rocky River — its residents upset by the noise at Lakewood Dog Park — had more bark than it did bite.
On Tuesday, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Carolyn Friedland ruled in favor of Lakewood. Friedland found that the dog park, opened in 2003, is not a nuisance and denied Rocky River's request for an injunction to close the park.
Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers called the legal case “a fairly torturous process,” and said he’s glad it’s over.
“The judge did a good job of summarizing the facts in her ruling,” he said.
The lawsuit stemmed from complaints from four nearby residents about noise from dogs at the park barking. About 10 neighbors of the park — located at 1299 Metropark Drive — testified in the case.
One strike against the neighbors, according to the judge’s opinion, was that the closest home was more than 400 feet away.
“We thought they might be over-sensitive a little bit,” said Lakewood Assistant Law Director Scott Claussen, who handled the case for the city. “But I am not in their situation.”
Claussen said one of the deciding factors in the case was that — in addition to listening to more than 100 hours of audio recordings made by the plaintiffs — Friedland sat in one of the plaintiff's backyard for 40 minutes.
Not one bark.
“After weighing the evidence,” Friedland wrote, “the court concludes that evidence presented does not support a finding that the dog park is a private nuisance.”
Friedland also pointed out that the noise doesn’t violate Rocky River ordinances.
In the three-year-long case, Lakewood paid “less than $4,000” in legal fees, which included the city’s share of a $5,000 noise study, Claussen said.
Rocky River officials could not be reached for this story.
Summers said Lakewood’s legal work on the case was done in-house, which he said saved the city some cash.
Lakewood’s earlier proposal to settle the issue by building an $80,000 sound barrier is now off the table. Rocky River had asked that the dogs also be muzzled.
“We couldn’t settle,” Claussen said. “We both thought we were right and the judge settled it.”
Mike O’Malley, a Lakewood resident and visitor to the dog park — located at 1299 Metropark Drive — said he is pleased with the judge’s ruling, but he’s not convinced it’s over.
“I wonder how quickly Rocky River will appeal,” he said. “Since that’s gone to trial, it has seemed like forever.”