Your dream of a peaceful and tranquil family home can quickly turn into a nightmare when a neighbourhood dog barks excessively. A mere annoyance can turn into distress with loss of sleep, loss of amenity and enjoyment of your home.

The law recognises that the excessive barking of a dog can be a nuisance. There are remedies available to you to deal with this nuisance so that you can enjoy your peace of mind once again.

Council Prosecution

Nuisance caused by a barking dog can be a public hazard, and your local Council is empowered by the Domestic Animals Act 1994 ("the DAA") and the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 ("the PHWA") to investigate complaints of barking dogs and, in cases where there is a nuisance, fine the offending neighbour or bring criminal charges that can carry heavy penalties.

After conducting their investigation into a complaint, the Council will determine if there is a nuisance and decide if it is appropriate to issue an infringement notice under section 85 of the DAA. In more serious cases, the Council may bring criminal charges in the Magistrates Court against the owner of the barking dog under section 32 of the DAA which can result in a fine and orders to reduce the nuisance. In extreme cases, the Council is able to bring a criminal charge under section 61 of the PHWA, which carries a maximum penalty of up to $17,713.20 (as of February 2015).

It is always open to Council to consider alternative remedies to reduce the nuisance, such as mediation between neighbours whose relationship has broken down. Your local Council is required under section 68A of the DAA to prepare a “Domestic Animal Management Plan” which will outline the Council’s programs to minimise the potential for dogs and cats to create nuisance.

Private Litigation

In addition to Council intervention, you are entitled under the common law principles of nuisance to commence legal proceedings against a neighbour who is interfering with the reasonable enjoyment of your property. The proceedings are commenced at your local Magistrates’ Court for a number of different orders, including the payment of monetary damages, an injunction to prevent the dog from barking or even an order that the dog be removed from the property altogether. The orders you can seek are dependent on your particular circumstances, so before you consider commencing litigation against a neighbour for nuisance, it is recommended you obtain legal advice.

Rudstein Kron Lawyers are experienced in neighbourhood disputes, and can provide detailed and thorough advice as to the best way to reclaim the quiet enjoyment of your property, including:

  • Obtaining Council records to assess your nuisance claim;
  • Obtaining statements from friends and neighbours to corroborate your claim;
  • Preparing thorough letters of demand to neighbours and Councils; and
  • Issuing proceedings seeking that the nuisance be reduced or removed from the property permanently;

5 tips when dealing with a neighbour’s barking dog

1. Record as much as you can

You should have detailed records of every time you hear the dog barking. You should keep a detailed log which records the date and time, what you heard and the possible cause of the noise. Most Councils can provide you with a log sheet, or you can create one yourself.

These records will be your evidence of the nuisance, and will carry significant weight with the Council or a Court.

2. Communicate with your neighbour early

It is always preferable to initially discuss your difficulties with your neighbour and see if your complaints are met with hostility or genuine desire to resolve the problem by dog training or other methods. They may not realise they are creating a nuisance and you may find they are willing to take steps to reduce the barking.

3. Write to your neighbour

If your discussions don’t result in reduced barking, you should write a brief and friendly letter to your neighbour outlining the problem and repeating the matters you have raise with them previously in person. This letter is valuable evidence of the efforts you have made to resolve the nuisance amicably.

4. Speak to your other neighbours

It is rare that a nuisance only effects one property, and you should speak to your surrounding neighbours to see if they are also affected by the noise and if they have also made complaints to the Council. While it is not necessary for multiple neighbours to complain about a barking dog to show nuisance, neighbours who can confirm the barking will corroborate your evidence and support your arguments that there is a nuisance that needs to be addressed.

5. Communicate with your Council

You should contact your local Council regularly to make complaints as to the nuisance. You should also provide the Council with a copy of your letter to your neighbour and your records, as these documents will normally form the basis of the Council’s investigation.

This article provides information that is general in nature and not a substitute for legal advice. Please contact Rudstein Kron Lawyers if you wish to obtain legal advice for your personal situation.