Complaints About Animals

Complaints about dogs

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. 

Council conducts investigations into nuisance (barking) dog complaints. These investigations are 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 to prior to initiating any enforcement action against the owner of a barking dog. Customers 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
  • 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.

Owners of dogs have 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 defines nuisance behaviour as 'making 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;
a) 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
b) 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 encourages negotiation between neighbours in an attempt to resolve the problem. Such negotiations can be conducted between each party or with the assistance of an independent mediator through a forum such as a Community Justice Centre. Advice 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 for a Noise Abatement Orders. These orders 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. Call Newcastle Local Court on (02) 4921 2200 for further information.

Making a complaint 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:

1. Reading all information concerning barking dogs as contained on Council's website.

2.  Attempted to resolve the situation by raising the issue with the dog owner or seeking the assitance of a  Community Justice Centre to mediate with the dog owner on your behalf. The owners may not be aware the dog is barking particularly if it’s only doing it when they are out.
 
  • 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.
3.  Record their complaint in writing outlining what action they have taken so far, the frequency and length of time that the dog barks.

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

What Council will do?

  1. Upon receipt of a written complaint about a nuisance (barking) dog, Council's Regulatory Services Unit will assess the information provided to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to commence an investigation. If Council determines the evidence submitted is 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.         
  2. A letter will be sent to the dog owner advising a complaint has been received and the owner will be provided with 28 days to rectify the situation.
  3. If the problem is not resolved, Council will send an evidence form and noise diaries to at least eight (8) residences in the neighbourhood to gain information about where the barking dog resides, the times and frequency the dog barks and what impact it has upon other neighbours. The noise diary is to be completed over a 14 day period and returned to Council within 21 days.
  4. Note:  The evidence form and noise diaries must be completed and signed by the person/s completing the forms. If sufficient evidence is not contained in these documents the ability for Council to take further action is limited. The documents will assist Council determining what action to take and can be used in legal proceedings.
  5. Council reviews all evidence forms and noise diaries. Council requires a minimum of three (3) completed and signed evidence forms and noise diaries to take any enforcement action. Council requires this number of complaints to prevent unsubstantiated, vexatious or pay back complaints, and Council considers multiple complainants and consistent evidence confirms the legitimacy of complaints and the impact felt within the community. If the evidence returned does not demonstrate a frequent or lengthy impact upon the community or there are less than 3 complainants, Council will not take any further action.
  6. If sufficient evidence is received, a Council Ranger will obtain a statement from each complainant.
  7. Council will then determine what the appropriate enforcement that should be taken will be. This may include 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.
  8. If the barking persists, contact Council and arrangements will be made for a Ranger to obtain a statement including evidence about the breach of the Order or Direction.
  9. Once statements have been obtained Council will assess the evidence and determine what enforcement action can and will be taken.

Issues to consider

Council requires significant evidence to support and authenticate an allegation and to justify issuing any form of legal process. Any legal process or enforcement action initiated by Council can be contested and appealed by the person to whom the legal process 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 Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009. 

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
  • Restrict your pet's vision through the fence or gate
  • Consider training. Talk to a specialist, reputable trainer or your local dog training club
  • Insulate the kennel 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 you know who the owner is), contact Council or take it to an animal holding facility such as a vet.

Council requests that if you do happen to find a dog and wish for Council to pick it up that you have the dog contained, either by leash or in an enclosed space.

If you see an aggressive dog, do not approach it – contact Council straight away so a trained Animal Controller may seize the dog.

Council can only pick up dogs during the following business hours:

Monday to Friday

  • Summer - 6.30am to 7.30pm
  • Winter - 7am to 5.30pm

Weekends

  • Saturday and Sunday - 8am to 4.30pm

If you find a stray dog outside of business hours, you can:

  • Return the dog to its owner or contact its owner directly via details on a collar or tag
  • Retaining the dog until the following morning
  • Not taking the dog into your possession
  • Contacting or delivering the dog to a veterinarian practice or other similar approved premises
  • Delivering the dog to the RSPCA overnight dog surrender kennels at Tighes Hill.

Though Council have certain services available 24 hours a day these are predominately for emergency situations.

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.

Here is a handy brochure to assist you in this stressful time -   Alleged Dog Attacks (pdf)

Dangerous dogs

A dog is considered dangerous if it has, without provocation:

  • Attacked or killed a person or animal (other than vermin)
  • Repeatedly threatened to attack or repeatedly chased a person or animal.

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. You will be given information about your right to object to the proposed declaration. Objections must be made in writing within seven days.

Responsibilities of owners of dangerous dogs

If your dog is declared to be a dangerous dog you must:

  • Keep 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
  • Desex your dog
  • Do not leave your dog in sole charge of your children.
  • Read our brochure for more information about  Dangerous Dogs (pdf)

Menacing dogs

On 1 January 2014, the NSW Government introduced the 'menacing dog' category. A dog is considered menacing if it:

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

b. has, without provocation, attacked a person or animal (other than vermin) but whether out causing serious injury or death.

The Companion Animal Act 1998 regulations may declare a breed or kind of dog to be a menacing breed or kind of dog.

Responsibilities of owners of menacing dogs

If your dog is declared to be a menacing dog you must:

  • have an area on your property which is capable of enclosing the dog in a manner that is sufficient to restrain the dog and prevent a child from having unsupervised access to the dog.
  • clearly display a sign 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.
  • When in public keep your dog on a lead and ensure it is wearing a muzzle.
  • Desex your dog (if applicable)
  • Do not leave your dog in sole charge of your children.

Restricted dogs

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

  • American pit bull terrier or pit bull terrier
  • Japanese tosa
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasiliero
  • 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 dogs.

For further information regarding restricted dogs, please contact Council's Regulatory Services Team on 02 4974 2000.

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