Dealing with barking dogs
Preventing dogs from barking too much
This booklet is about ways in which you can look after your dog to prevent excessive barking. It 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.
Why dogs bark
Barking is one of the ways dogs communicate. It can signify anything from playfulness to danger.
However, 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.
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 people living nearby.
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 and size.
Curing the barking habit
If you feel that a dog is well cared for, but continues to bark excessively, there are several things that can be tried:
- remove direct line of sight between the dog and children or animals, as looking at other animals or children may provoke barking
- take the dog to a recognised animal trainer to discourage bad habits
- provide noise insulation for the kennel
- take the dog to the vet - it may be sick.
The RSPCA website provides more information about proper care and management of dogs.
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.
For information on your nearest CJC, visit the CJC website or check CJC contact details listed at the end of this page.
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 (check with your council about what evidence is required).
If the complaint is substantiated, the officer can issue a nuisance order. Before doing so, the owner of the dog must be given prior notice of the officer’s intention to issue a nuisance order. The notice must specify what aspects of the dog’s behaviour need to change to prevent the disturbance from continuing. It must also inform the owner of their right to object to the proposed order, and that the objection must be in writing and submitted within 7 days of the notice being issued. If an objection is received, the officer must then consider whether it is appropriate to issue the order. Once an order is issued, it remains in force for six months and cannot be appealed against.
If the owner does not comply with the order, the offender is liable for a fine of up to $880 for the first offence and $1650 for the second and each subsequent offence.
Use the Protection of the Environment Operations Act
Seek a prevention notice
Under sections 95-100 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act), a council officer can serve a prevention notice on the owner of a noisy dog. Conditions that may be added in a prevention notice include providing regular food and water facilities, sufficient space and freedom, and adequate shelter. The notice may also include taking some action against barking. The notice can also apply where there are several dogs involved and a specific noisy dog cannot be identified.
The prevention notice has a 21-day appeal period.
The POEO Act allows local council officers to issue on-the-spot fines of $750 to individuals ($1500 to corporations) who breach a notice.
If proceedings are taken to a local court, and the offender is prosecuted, they may be liable for a maximum penalty of $250,000 and a further $60,000 for each day the offence continues.
Seek a noise abatement order
If you want to take action independently 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:
- is harmful to (or is likely to be harmful to) a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted, or
- 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 (listed under ‘Local Courts’ in your local telephone directory or access the local court website) 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.
If the court is satisfied that the dog is causing an offensive noise, or that the noise is likely to recur, it may order the owner to stop the noise within a specified time or prevent a recurrence. If the person fails to comply with the order, they could be prosecuted and be liable for a maximum penalty of $3300.
The person responsible for causing the noise can appeal against an order.
The brochure on Seeking noise abatement orders contains more details.
Community Justice Centres
Phone: 1800 990 777 or 8688 7455
Fax: 8688 9615
TTY: 1800 671 964
Address: Level 5, Parramatta Justice Precinct, 160 Marsden Street, Parramatta NSW 2150
Contact details for all NSW councils are listed in the 'Local Government Directory' of the Division of Local Government website.
Environment Protection Authority
Phone Environment Line 131 555
Fax: (02) 9995 5999
TTY users: phone 133 677 then ask for 131 555
Speak and listen users: phone 1300 555 727 then ask for 131 555
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Page last updated: 15 February 2013