Although there are state and regional differences, barking dog laws in Australia all follow the same general principles. To be fair and impartial there are legal requirements that must be fulfilled before the law will step in and investigate a complaint:
There is wide agreement that barking dogs can be a nuisance. Unfortunately, not everybody is in agreement about when a barking dog becomes a nuisance or whether or not it is a nuisance at all. For example, if a dog barks repeatedly throughout the day when its owners aren't home, it isn't a nuisance to them or to other neighbours who are also out all day.
Barking dogs are rarely considered as much of a nuisance by their owners as they are by their neighbours and this can be the source of serious disputes. For assistance in resolving disputes you can contact the Community Justice Centres on 1800 990 777 or visit: http://www.cjc.justice.nsw.gov.au/
For the party who is losing sleep and peace of mind due to the constant barking of a neighbour's dog, these requirements can appear unjust and excessive. However, local councils throughout Australia receive thousands of barking dog complaints every year, many of which are frivolous or even unfounded. While it can be a tedious and frustrating process, you will have to undertake all of these steps before you can take legal action against the owner or carer of a barking dog.
If a dog is deemed by Council Rangers to be a nuisance, the owner of the animal is given the opportunity to attempt to control the dog's behaviour. If they fail to do so, then enforcement action may be initiated.
A Nuisance order is broad and encompasses a range of varying behaviours which constitute a ‘Nuisance.’
Where a Nuisance dog order (proposed) is issued by a Council Ranger the dogs owner or carer has the opportunity to object within 7 days. If the owner or carer object within that time, the Council Ranger must consider the objection before deciding whether or not to issue the order.
If no objection is forthcoming than a Nuisance dog order (final) is issued and remains in force for 6 months.
Once a Nuisance dog order (final) is issued the order is not subject to any further appeal or review process.
Once a Nuisance dog order is issued significant fines can be applied for non-compliance.
Have your neighbours complained to you about your barking dog?
Sometimes a neighbour may simply not like dogs and may become irritated when your dog barks every time he or she returns home or goes out into the garden. Intermittent barking like this does not fall under the legal umbrella of excessive barking, but it can create tension between neighbours.
Your dog may just be unaware of its territorial limits and feel its territory extends to other neighbouring properties or where the dog feels its territory has been encroached. One way to handle this is to reassure and train your dog that your neighbour's presence does not pose a threat. If the neighbour is willing, you may also want to introduce your dog to them and let the neighbour demonstrate that they pose no threat to you or your pet. If the neighbour is hesitant to cooperate, point out the legal requirement that an attempt to settle any dispute must be made before a complaint will formally be initiated.
If your neighbour/s approach you with a complaint, it is better for you to exercise discretion and be open than become defensive. If your dog barks excessively, it is often a sign of stress and you will want to take steps to rectify the problem. Some of the reasons for excessive barking include:
If you work all day and have to leave the dog indoors, consider hiring a dog walking service. If you have been neglecting to take your dog for walks or to play with it when you are at home, give it more "quality time". Giving your dog a "course of study" with a dog training and obedience teacher may be the best course of action if you cannot control your dog's barking. It is best for everyone, your dog included, to resolve noise from a barking dog problem.
For more information and resources on how you can look after your dog to prevent excessive barking, visit http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/noise/barkingdogs.htm. This website also explains the law applying to noise from dogs and provides information that is intended to make life better for dogs, dog owners and their neighbours.
If the barking problem continues, and further complaints are lodged, a Council ranger may issue a Nuisance Dog order which requires the owner or carer to suppress and limit the noise. This notice has effect for six months.
If the owner does not comply with the notice, they may be issued a Penalty Notice or be taken to court, where penalties applied.
Significant penalties apply if the dog has already been issued with a Dangerous or Menacing dog declaration.
Making a false report (for whatever reason) may result in civil court action being taken against the complainant for a false declaration.
For more information on responsible pet ownership visit the Department of Local Government and Communities’ website: www.olg.nsw.gov.au/public/dogs-and-cats.