There is almost universal 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 neighbour's 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. In order to resolve disputes, there are barking dog laws in Australia, but they are not well understood. What does the law have to say about barking dogs?
Barking Dog Laws in Australia
Although there are state and regional differences, barking dog laws in Australia all follow the same general principles. Basically, in an attempt to be fair and impartial there are some legal requirements that must be fulfilled before the law will step in and investigate a complaint:
- The multiple household or consensus law states that more than one neighbour has to lodge a complaint about a barking dog. If there is general consensus amongst a number of neighbours that a dog is considered to be a nuisance, their case can be heard in court.
- It is up to those issuing a complaint to provide proof that a dog is being enough of a nuisance to warrant legal intervention. An exhaustive diary must be kept, listing occurrences of dog barking, their duration and other details.
- Efforts must be made to resolve the issue with the dog owner before the case will be heard in court.
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 if a neighbour's barking dog is a nuisance or worse.
If a dog is deemed by the court 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, they will be fined. In South Australia and other States, the fine is $250 and can be issued multiple times if further complaints are lodged. The dog is only taken from the owner after all other avenues of resolution have been exhausted.
What If Your Dog Is the Culprit?
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, but it can create tension between neighbours. Your dog may just be unaware of its territorial limits and feels its territory has been encroached upon. One way to handle this is to reassure 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 the dispute must be made before their complaint will be considered by the legal authorities.
If your neighbours approach you with a complaint, it is better for you to hear them out than to become defensive. If your dog does bark excessively, it is often a sign of distress and you will want to take steps to rectify the problem. Some of the reasons for excessive barking include:
- Not enough human companionship.
- Limited space in the yard or being housebound.
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. In the last analysis, it is best for everyone, your dog included, to nip a barking problem in the bud.