Animal Related Complaints

 

Nuisance (Barking) dogs

Barking dogs create more disputes between neighbours than any other issue, and they result in a large number of complaints to Council every year.

Complaints are investigated, assessed and prioritised to ensure Council resources are being efficiently allocated to deal with complaints which occur frequently and have a significant impact upon the community.

Council requires specific and extensive evidence prior to initiating any enforcement action against the owner(s) of a barking dog.

Complainants will be required to provide very detailed information including completing an evidence form and noise diary over a 14 day period. Anonymous complaints are not investigated. Further details about barking dog investigations are outlined below.

 

Understanding barking and nuisance behaviour

Barking is simply one way dogs communicate and can mean anything from playfulness to danger.

Some dogs bark because they are:

  • Chained to a fixed point and don’t have enough room to move around.

  • Are being provoked deliberately or unintentionally by people or other roaming animals.

  • Not getting enough exercise.

  • Not properly trained.

  • Lonely, sick, hungry, or generally neglected.

Chronic or excessive barking is a sign that something is wrong and can be a nuisance to others in the community. Sometimes stopping a dog from barking can be as simple as taking care of their basic needs some require more extensive measures to try and curb this issue.

Dog owners have legal responsibilities under the Companion Animals Act 1998 and the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, to ensure their dogs do not exhibit nuisance behaviour or emit offensive noise.

The Companion Animals Act 1998 stipulates that a dog is a nuisance if the dog;

“makes a noise, by barking or otherwise, that persistently occurs or continues to such a degree or extent that it unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of any person in any other premises.”

The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, defines “offensive noise” as noise:

  • that, by reason of its level, nature, character or quality, or the time at which it is made, or any other circumstances:

    1. is harmful to (or is likely to be harmful to) a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted, or

    2. interferes unreasonably with (or is likely to interfere unreasonably with) the comfort or repose of a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted, or

  • that is of a level, nature, character or quality prescribed by the regulations or that is made at a time, or in other circumstances, prescribed by the regulations.

Council will advise that before lodging a complaint have a talk to your neighbour/s, or dogs owner/s, in an attempt to resolve the problem before reporting it. Most barking dog complaints can be fixed by just bringing the problem to the owners attention as it is quite likely that they are unaware there is a problem as most owners are at work or away from the house when the barking is occurring.

The next level of the complaints process is negotiation between both parties. These negotiations can be conducted between each party or with the assistance of an independent mediator through a forum such as a Community Justice Centre or Council. Advise and further information on Community Justice Centres can be obtained by contacting 1800 990 777.

Alternatively, you may apply to The Chamber Magistrate at the Local Court House for a Noise Abatement Order. A Noise Abatement Order may be issued by the Magistrate when it is clear the barking has caused a nuisance and you have tried to resolve the issue by other means.

 

Making a complaint to Council about a Nuisance (Barking) Dog

What do you need to do?

Prior to Council commencing any barking dog investigation, Council requires the person(s) affected to have undertaken certain actions including:

  • Reading all information concerning barking dogs as contained on Council’s website.

  • Attempted to resolve the situation by raising the issue with the dog owner/s or seeking the assistance of a Community Justice Centre to mediate with the dog owner/s on your behalf. The owners may not be aware the dog is barking, particularly if it is only doing it when they are not home.

    • Be courteous – sometimes they may not know how to go about fixing the problem so be prepared to assist with information.

    • Be specific – tell your neighbour if the dog is barking at certain times or at certain things and give them an opportunity to correct the problem.

  • Record your complaint in writing outlining what actions have been undertaken so far including the frequency and length of time that the dog barks.

Council will not commence any investigation until these actions have been completed.

 

What will Council do?

  • Upon receipt of a complaint about a nuisance (barking) dog, Council Officers will assess the information provided to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to commence an investigation. If Council determines the evidence submitted in not adequate and does not demonstrate the dog barks to a frequency or length of time where the community is significantly impacted, then no further action will be taken. If there is sufficient evidence an investigation will commence.
  • Council Officers will attempt to contact the owner (if known) of the animal/s and bring to there attention the problem as it has been reported.

  • Council will also send an noise survey and letter to residences in the neighbourhood in order to gain evidentiary information about where exactly the barking dog resides, the times and frequency the dog barks and what impact it has neighbours. The noise diary is to be completed over a consecutive 14 day period and returned to Council within 28 days.

    Note: The noise survey must be completed and signed by the person(s) completing the form. If sufficient evidence is not contained in these documents the ability for Council to take further action is limited. The documents will assist Council in determining what action to take and may be used in legal proceedings. Should no survey's be returned to Council, no further action will be undertaken.

  • Council requires completed and signed survey's from a number of neighbours in order to substantiate complaint claims and may be used to take further enforcement action. Council requires a number of survey's to be returned in order to ensure that the complaint is not of a vexatious or 'pay back' type. Council will also compare the survey’s to ensure that the information recorded is consistent and confirms the legitimacy of the complaints and the impact felt within the community. If the evidence returned does not demonstrate a substantial enough impact upon the community, there was an insufficient number of survey’s returned or the evidence is not consistent, Council will not take any further action.

  • If sufficient evidence is received and a problem is clearly identified Council will determine the appropriate enforcement action that should be taken. This may include undertaking the process of issuing the owner of the dog with a “Nuisance Dog Order” in accordance with Section 32B of the Companion Animals Act 1998 or a “Noise Abatement Direction” issued in accordance with Section 276 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

  • If the barking persists, complainants are requested to contact Council and arrangements will be made for a Ranger to obtain a statement including evidence about the breach of the Order or Direction.

Once statements have been obtained Council will assess the evidence and determine what enforcement action can and may be taken, this may include the issuing of Penalty Infringement Notices.

 

Issues to consider

Council requires significant evidence to support and authenticate complaints and to justify undertaking any form of legal action. Any legal or enforcement action initiated by Council can be contested and appealed by the person to whom it is against. Council must comply with specific rules relating to the collection of evidence and commencement of legal proceedings. Council must be able to produce relevant evidence to justify decisions and action taken to a standard accepted by the Court.

A person’s identity may be disclosed if Council decisions are defended before a Court.

A person’s identity may be disclosed if a request is made under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009.

Note: Nuisance Dog Orders expire after 6 months. Noise Abatement Directions expire after 28 days.

 

Curing the barking habit

If you feel your dog is well cared for but continues to bark excessively, there are a number of things you can try:

  • Confine your dog in the back yard, away from interference and/or provocation by passing traffic and pedestrians.

  • Restrict your pet’s vision through the fence or gate by erecting shade cloth or the like.

  • Consider training. Talk to a specialist, reputable trainer or a local dog training club.

  • Insulate the kennel or enclosure against noise and weather.

Keep your dog inside or confined to the garage or garden shed at night.

 

Straying Dogs

If  you happen to find a stray dog either walking the streets or at your property and take the dog into your custody, you have a responsibility to either return it to its owner (if known), contact Council or take it to an approved animal holding facility, such as a vet.

Council requests that if you do happen to find or see a roaming dog and wish for Council’s Ranger to pick it up, the dog must be contained, either by leash or in an enclosed space.

If you are unable to ‘catch’ the dog in order to contain it until the Ranger arrives, please bear in mind that it is highly unlikely that the Ranger will be able to ‘catch’ it either. If this is the case please take photos, if safe to do so, or take a detailed description of the dog such as, identifying marks, colour, if it is wearing a collar and what colour it is, etc. Alternatively if you are able to follow the animal or keep an eye on it until the Ranger arrives.

If you come across a dog that is acting aggressively do not approach it – contact Council’s Ranger straight away on 0417 890 889 or call the Police if you believe your life, or someone else’s, is in danger.

 

Dog Attacks

Council and Police can investigate alleged dog attacks.

A dog attack is defined as a “dog rushing at, attacking, biting, harassing or chasing any person or animal (other than vermin), whether or not any injury is caused to the person or animal”.

There are four declaration levels that can be made against dogs. These are;

  • Dangerous; and

  • Attacked or killed a person or animal (other than vermin), or

  • Repeatedly threatened to attack or repeatedly chased a person or animal, or

  • Is kept for the purposes of hunting.

Note: A dog is not to be regarded as being kept or used for the purposes of hunting if it is used only to locate, flush, point or retrieve birds or vermin. Vermin includes small pest animals only (such as rodents). If a hunting dog is declared to be a dangerous dog, the declaration does not necessarily mean that the dog cannot be used for the purposes of lawful hunting.

If a dog meets the above criteria Council may declare the dog a “dangerous dog”. Council must first give notice to the owner of a dog of their intention to declare the dog to be dangerous. The owner will be given information about their right to object to the proposed declaration. Objections must be made in writing within seven (7) days.

 

Menacing dogs

On 1 January 2014, the NSW Government introduced the “menacing dog” category. A dog is considered menacing if it has, without provocation:

  • displayed unreasonable aggression towards a person or animal (other than vermin), or

  • attacked a person or animal (other than vermin) but without causing serious injury or death.

The Companion Animal Act 1998 and Companion Animals Regulation 2008 may declare a breed or kind of dog to be a menacing breed or kind of dog.

 

Responsibilities of owners of declared dangerous and menacing dogs

If your dog is declared to be a dangerous dog you must comply with the requirements of the Companion Animals Act 1998 and the Companion Animals Regulation 2008 in respect of:

  • Keeping your dog in an enclosure constructed and maintained in such a way that the dog is not able to dig or otherwise escape;

  • Clearly display one or more signs on your property showing the words “Warning Dangerous Dog”;

  • Ensure your dog wears a distinctive collar consisting of red stripes alternatively spaced with yellow stripes;

  • Keep your dog on a lead and wearing a muzzle when away from its property;

  • Microchip and/or Register the animal within 7 days of the declaration;

  • Ensure the animal is desexed within 28 days; and

Do not leave children under the age of 16 in sole charge of the dog.

Note: A dog is not considered to be under the effective control of a person if the person has more than 2 dogs (one being the subject of the declaration) under his or her control at the one time.

 

Restricted dogs

The following dogs are restricted dogs for the purposes of the Companion Animals Act 1998:

  • American Pit Bull Terrier or Pit Bull Terrier;

  • Japanese Tosa;

  • Dogo Argentino;

  • Fila Brasiliero; and

  • Any dog declared by a Council to be a restricted dog.

Owners of restricted dogs are obliged to comply with the same responsibilities (set out above) as owners of dangerous and menacing dogs.