Barking is one of the ways dogs communicate. It can signify anything
from playfulness to danger.
Dogs sometimes bark when they are:
- chained to a fixed point without enough room to move, or kept in a space which is too small
- provoked, deliberately or unintentionally, by people or roaming dogs
- under exercised or not exercised at all
- hungry, thirsty, on the wrong diet or generally neglected
- kept in circumstances that are unsuitable for that particular breed
- victims of abuse.
If you suspect a dog is being mistreated, contact an RSPCA inspector on (02) 9770 7555 or 1300 278 3589, or through the RSPCA website at www.rspcansw.org.au.
The causes of barking listed above should not be part of a dog’s life. As well as indicating a possibly distressed animal, chronic excessive barking can disturb your neighbours.
Caring for Dogs
Compassion and common sense can eliminate many causes of excessive barking. A well cared for dog will generally not bark unreasonably and disturb neighbours.
The following suggestions should help:
- Dogs need enough space to move freely in an enclosed backyard. A dog should not be left on a fixed chain for long periods. If a dog has to be chained, it should be on a running chain.
- Dogs need a place of their own. This can be a ventilated and waterproof kennel or an indoor area. Under section 8 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, a dog must be provided with adequate shelter, that is, a structure that protects them from wind, rain and sunshine.
- Dogs need regular and adequate exercise according to their breed size
Noisy Dogs and the Law
If you are annoyed by the noise from your neighbour’s dog there are several things you can do.
- Talk to the dog’s owner. The dog’s owner may not have realised that their dog is bothering you, and in many cases, will be happy to work with you to solve the problem.
- Contact a Community Justice Centre. If the problem persists, you may contact a Community Justice Centre (CJC). These are government-funded but independent centres that specialise in settling differences between neighbours without entering into complicated legal processes. They will suggest mediation, where you meet with the dog’s owner and a CJC representative to try and solve the problem. This process will not cost you any money, and has a high success rate.
- Contact your local council. If mediation is unsuccessful and the noise problem persists, contact your local council. They have statutory powers to deal with barking dogs. Under the Companion Animals Act 1998, a council officer can issue a nuisance order to the owner declaring the dog a nuisance if it barks or makes another noise that keeps occurring or continues to such a degree that it unreasonably disturbs neighbours. For example, if you complain about a noisy dog, the council officer can investigate to substantiate your complaint. This may include collecting evidence such as written statements from neighbours, asking you to keep a diary of when the noise occurs, and visiting the property where the dog is kept.
Seek a Noise Abatement Order
If you want to take action independent of the council, you can seek a noise abatement order from the local court. The court may issue this order when a person satisfies the court that a neighbour’s dog is making an offensive noise.
Under the POEO Act, offensive noise is defined as noise:
- that by reason of its level, nature, character or quality, or the time at which it is made, or any other circumstances: (i) is harmful to (or is likely to be harmful to) a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted, or (ii) 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.
To apply for an order, contact your local court. Access the local court website at www.localcourt.justice.nsw.gov.au or speak to your legal adviser. The next step is to contact the registry staff at your local court. They will explain the process to you. There are fees for applying for a noise abatement order.