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The following information explains the law applying to noise from dogs and provided 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. Canine noise pollution is one of the most irritating canine behavioural problems, annoying both dog owning and non-dog owning members of the community. Dogs bark for a reason and dogs that bark habitually suggest that something is not quite right. Some breeds will bark more than others, however, the most common causes of excessive barking are:
  • Boredom and loneliness
  • Confinement and isolation
  • Lack of exercise and activity
  • Lack of training
  • Seperation anxiety
  • Specific stimuli eg.people or vehicles passing by the property, other dogs or native wildlife
  • A health problem
  • Hungry, thirsty on the wrong diet or generally neglected
  • Kept in circumstances that are unsuitable for that particular breed
In many cases, excessive barking will occur during the owner's absence and more often than not, the owner can be oblivious to the problem. With this in mind, a friendly approach should be taken. By placing a note in the dog owners letterbox, you will hopefully avoid a kerbside confrontation and also if the problem remains unresolved, Council Rangers will investigate the complaint in order to evaluate the situation.

The dog owner will be required to take immediate action to resolve the problem and in most cases will be given time for any measures to take effect. However, if the problem is found to continue, the dog owner may be subject to further action by Council or civil action by the complainant.
Owners should search for the cause and take immediate action to improve the situation. Research the needs of your dogs breed, consider obedience classes increase activity, exercise and the time that you spend with your dog. Helpful advice and assistance can be obtained from dog trainers and veterinarians.

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. If you suspect a dog is being mistreated Council recommends that you contact RSPCA.

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, they 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 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
Citronella collars also help prevent barking. Citronella collars are available for purchase from Pet Shops. Citronella collars are endorsed by the RSPCA. The RSCPA (external link) 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, 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, which is 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 95% success rate. For information on your nearest centre, visit the Community Justic Centre (external link) website.

  • Contact Council. If mediation is unsuccessful and the noise problem persists, contact 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, the registered owner or the person who normally keeps the animal. The dog can be declared a nuisance if they bark or make another noise that keeps occurring or continues to such a degree that it unreasonably disturbs neighbours.
    If you complain about a noisy dog, the council officer can investigate to substantiate the complaint. This means 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. If the complaint is substantiated, the officer can issue a nuisance order, specifying aspects of the dog’s behaviour that must be prevented. A nuisance order can not be appealed against. The order remains in force for six months. If the owner does not comply with the order, the offender is liable for a fine of $275.00

  • Use the Protection of Environment Operations Act. Seek 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 require direct action against barking such as the use of citronella collars. The prevention notice has a 21-day appeal period. The POEO Act allows local council officers to issue on-the-spot fines of $750.00 to individuals ($1500.00) to corporations) who breach a notice.
    If proceedings are brought in a local court, and the offender is prosecuted, they may be liable for a maximum penalty of $22,000.00.

  • Seek a noise abatement order. If you want to take action independently of the council, you can seek a noise abatement order. This order may be issued when a person satisfies the court that a neighbouring dog is making an offensive noise. To apply for an order, contact your local court by visiting the Lawlink (external link) website or speaking to your legal adviser.

  • The next step is to make an appointment to see the chamber magistrate in your local court who 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 $3300.00. The person responsible for causing the noise can appeal against an order.

Nuisance Dogs

A Nuisance Order may be issued if your dog is found to be repeatedly:
  • roaming the neighbourhood
  • making a noise
  • defecating on other peoples property
  • chasing a person, animal or vehicle
  • causing damage to property

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