WA laws aim to silence barking dogs

By Paul Hemsley

The Western Australian government has unleashed an ambitious plan to help councils stop dogs from barking. At least barking so much that they make a nuisance of themselves in populated areas.

A newly proposed provision by Minister for Local Government Tony Simpson under the Dog Amendment Bill 2013 will provide councils with stronger powers to impose stricter legal controls on noisy hounds and dangerous breeds.

The boosting of dog controls follows an extensive campaign by the Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) to gain more practical authority to control canines.

Councils in the West made dog controls a matter of urgency in October 2012 when WALGA President Troy Pickard firmly pushed the state government to pass two bills, including the Dog Amendment Bill 2012 and the Local Government Amendment Bill (No 2) 2012, before the Legislative Assembly convened for Christmas.

The resulting provisions do not muck around. They include making dog owners criminally responsible if their dog kills or endangers a person, tighter controls on dangerous breeds and their sale, mandatory microchipping for dogs.

Some owners will also be required to attend dog training rather than just being fined.

But the real kicker is the “stricter provisions” in the proposed Bill that give the power to councils to land dog owners in trouble through only one complaint of barking and the use of a “bark count collar”.

Although the WA government won’t provide a clear or definitive answer about how new legislation will actually control a noisy dog or stop it from barking (and dogs are not generally known for their ability to read and interpret laws), it has suggested that the causes to treat are boredom, hunger, thirst, attention seeking and protecting territory.

Under the dog laws, the ramifications for barking dog owners include an escalating scale of consequences.

Presently, a complaint would result with an on-the-spot fine of $100 and a letter from a ranger to the owner offering “helpful advice”. But the WA Department of Local Government has warned that if the barking problem continues and further complaints and lodged, the ranger will investigate.

But the sterner provisions under the Dog Amendment Bill 2013 state that a ranger can issue the owner of a “nuisance barking dog” with an order to address the problem that has the effect of six months from the date of issue.

If the owner fails to comply with the order, then the owner has committed an offence and the ranger can either issue the owner with a $400 fine for dogs classed as “dangerous” and $200 for all other dogs.

As a result, the “irresponsible” owner could face a judge if they don’t comply with the ranger’s recommendations with fines up to $10,000 if the barking is caused by a dangerous dog and a maximum of $5,000 for all other dogs.

However, the WA Department of Local Government won’t say what would happen to the barking dog itself.

Nevertheless, the local government sector has warmly welcomed the new strict provisions because it is expected to provide “much needed clarity and support” for local government in protecting the community.

Mr Pickard said the proposed changes would enable local governments to be more effective in ensuring that both dog owners and the wider community understand what is acceptable.

“The proposed new laws are not about trying to make it more onerous to for a family to have a dog but rather encourage responsible pet ownership,” Mr Pickard said.

Although the push for tougher laws towards barking dogs has been a recent demand by WALGA, the state government under Liberal Premier Richard Court gave councils warnings about controlling noisy canines as far back as May 2000 when then-Minister for Local Government Paul Omodei reminded councils about their role in upholding the existing dog law.

In this memorandum distributed to councils that year, Mr Omodei told councils that it was an offence for a dog to create a nuisance by excessive and persistent barking under Section 38 of the Dog Act and that councils had a responsibility and the power to do something about it.

At the time, Mr Omodei encouraged councils to “endeavour” to have the problem resolved by investigating and taking appropriate action and could act on a single complaint, which would not have to be signed by three people.

However, Mr Omodei did not specify what the consequences would be for the noisy dog and its owner.

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23 thoughts on “WA laws aim to silence barking dogs

  1. It is about time laws for barking dogs were looked at because there are a lot of irresponsible dog owners that could not care less about there neighbours right to peace and quiet.
    How on earth can a dog have more power than the rights of less than three people.
    If you have your music to loud you have the police around in no time but try getting the police around when your neighbours dog barks through out the night.

    1. totally agree I have 3 dogs they have all been to dog training and they all know who is boss you would not know I had them because I care about my dogs and the people around me that I live in the streets with it should be that very one should have to go to dog training and if your dog has a problem be it barking howling or a danger to other them it should be acted on at once.
      I have a dog next door who howls and barks all the time any hour of the day they do nothing I don’t think much of My Council who just keeps saying fill in a dog barking sheet what the hell is that going to do fine these people for God sake so we can have sleep in the street.

      1. Nothing has changed. We have been trying to stop barking dogs through the day and night in our street for nearly ten years. First off three households tried to talk to them in person and were met screaming and abuse. Only then was the ranger called. Five formal complaints have been made over the years by multiple households about the two homes with the offending dogs. One household told us we can move if we don’t like it, the other responded by encouraging their dogs to bark more and leaving them out front all day. Ranger services we advised and still did nothing. Nothing has been enforced and no fines issued. We are in the hills and fall under the Armadale council/ ranger services. The last time we spoke to the head Ranger we were told that dogs are allowed to bark. When we asked why we were never contacted (both homes that made official complaints recently, and not the first time) , and why the cases were closed without contacting us, they offered no explanation. Not sure what we are going to do next as the problem continues. In fact one of them is outside barking as I type this at 10pm on a Wednesday night.

  2. I’m glad to see that at least one State is addressing this horrendous problem, which has caused so much warfare in neighbourhoods. Far too many innocent victims have been forced to sell up and move, or suffer dreadful ill health by having this racket force-fed into their homes at all times of the day and night. The most that happens is that the dog is put to sleep and in some rare cases the owner is fined if a human is attacked and injured.
    P.A. Robb, Maryborough, Qld.

  3. As a long-term carer for a mentally ill wife I can assure all concerned that continual exposure to the unwanted noise of uncontrolled dog barking is much more than a mere nuisance.
    It is injurious to both psychological and physical health.
    The deprivation of concentration effectively prevents reading, watching TV or listening to radio etc.
    Phone calls with intrusive dog bark noise suggests that one lives in a slum area which is in effect true.
    The constant and ongoing stress under which a victim is placed adds up to a deterioration of mental capacity even in the strongest and most resolute of constitutions.
    So much for the psychological impacts.
    Sleep deprivation because of an inability to find relief causes loss of ability to perform daily tasks such as driving. (Research by experts in this field has determined that restriction of sleep to less than five hours daily can have similar effects on driving ability as .05 consumption of alcohol)

    Regarding dangerous dog legislation it is not sufficient that an owner is made criminally responsible for injury caused by an animal.
    That is an acceptance that individuals can own dangerous dogs and this allows for an ever-present situation where humans (especially our children whose flesh is tender and who have no means of defence) live with risk of dog attack.
    Also it can never be acceptable in a civilised society for innocent victims and their families to bear monetary costs of reconstructive surgery, funeral expenses and other costs related to disfigurement for life with associated ostracism from society.
    Offending dog owners must be made responsible for compensating for all such costs.
    Better still it must be enshrined in dog control legislation that no individual can own a dangerous dog.

    Al.

  4. These laws are vague and do not allow for owners to have specific guides to judge their dogs barking by. They also do not allow for the animals which are goaded into barking excessively by people who tease taunt throw rocks at or are throwing rocks at the property these dogs are on. I am having these problems in my town where my kids and I are terrorised by troublemakers at our house at least twice a week for the past 5 years. A problem the police in my area have not been able to control and instead of blaming the people responsible my neighbours have become volatile and abusive toward me and are making threats to my dogs. I now fear for their safety as as well as ours as this town is not beyond baiting dogs for the smallest reasons. I have done everything in my power to keep my dogs barking to a minimum including bringing the biggest barker in at 9pm so they are quieter during the times when people are asleep. Still the neighbours expect them to be completely silent all day as well and today I got another threat. I was looking for the laws to find out what my rights are but to my horror the laws is extremely vague and does not take into account extenuating circumstances such as the ones we are experiencing. I guess considering the laws on certain breeds and other unjust laws I have experienced of late I should not be surprised that the laws here are unfair also. Signed Losing Faith In Justice

  5. One complaint should be enough. I’ve complained while dogs are actively barking, howling and making my life miserable…only to be told that the rangers are now off duty and I will receive a barking dog pack to be completed by three other parties, yadayadyadayada….which doesn’t fix anything. My direct approach to the OFFENDING owner, resulted in verbal abusel. I pay my rates and I feel that I am entitled to peaceful enjoyment of my property.

  6. Let’s hope this Dog Amendment Bill / Act will actually go through!! I have had enough of my neighbour’s dog barking non-stop for hours at a time. This dog barks at nothing or barks at other dogs barking then the whole street starts off. I actually think it barks due to boredom and I’ve never once seen the owners walk the dog – EVER!

    I was misfortunate to be off ill from work for a whole week and due to the barking didn’t get much rest, even after shutting all my windows and doors and turning up the volume on TV. I was absolutely livid and shouting at the dog only made it stop barking for about 5 minutes until it started again.

    Unfortunately we have had run-ins with our inconsiderate & rude neighbour over lesser things than barking dogs, only to be abused so don’t like the chances of any resolution due to their dog barking – it would somehow be our fault! Their point of view is if they aren’t home it’s not bothering them and stuff the neighbours!!

    I’ve contacted my Council numerous times only to be told I have to fill in a diary of when & how long the dog barks (dog pack). Our household works all day so this isn’t an effective solution.

    Dog owners need to be made responsible. At least take steps to reduce barking by taking the dog for daily walks, making sure enough food / water, shelter and perhaps some toys is on hand.

    Let’s hope this law gets passed sooner than later!!

    1. My dogs are gentle to people invited onto the property, they are a guardian breed, so much crime in my area, I’ve had 2 violent break in,’s in the last 6months this is why I brought this breed to protect my family and property, who are u people to tell us our dog’s are breaking the law for alerting us , frankly the new dog laws are stupid enough said, another win for the criminals sigh

      1. A dog barking to alerting you for a noise is one thing and in fact if a dog just barks at that it is good for the neighbours. People are pissed off when a dog sits barking almost all day and all hours of the night when there is nothing alerting the dog is the issue and sadly many dog owners are stupid to say the least and sadly for people like you david that may do the right thing your targeted in the rest of the bad owners.

        Sorry it sucks but get angry with those dog owners not the people complaining.

  7. I am glad to see the WA Government take responsible action in the interest of people who like peace and quiet. This provision should be a model for all governments who neglected their duty to protect the peoples’ rights to enjoy tranquility. It’s high time for abusive dog owners, who for too long were able to harass their neighbors with their dogs, to pay a price for their antisocial behavior. I agree with one of the commenters that they should also be liable for the damages – physical and emotional – caused by incessant barking. Also I would suggest a tax on dogs to compensate the government for the cost of enforcement and associated expenses and environmental damage. For small dogs $100 per year, for big ones $200 per year would be a good start.

  8. I’m sick and tired of having my quality of life impaired by incessant barking machines owned by inconsiderate owners who could not care LESS about anybody else but themselves. They bring the dog into the neighbourhood and expect everyone else to just accept their noisy presence without complaint. And how DARE anyone have the audacity to complain!

    Kudos to the WA government for their initiative on this incendiary issue. I can only dream of the Victorian government going down a similar path.

  9. How much barking is too much? It really is a silly question. The question should be, how long does it take for a dogs owner to respond to their dogs barking and control it at the first instance. You hear your dog barking. Yep, it could be happy, sad, insane or just bored, but a dogs owner should immediately respond BEFORE the dogs barking becomes a nuisance. This is responsible pet ownership. To not respond to ANY emerging issue with ones pet in my view is negligence.

    Dog owners chould not think about how much noise disturbance is allowable. They should think, I better attend to the dog, it’s barking.Heaven knows you may find out something important about the dog, or a condition that alerts you to the safety of ones home etc..

    Dog need attention like people do. Some say like achild, but I dissagree with this notion. Dogs DO grow up like people grow up. A dog has it limited methods of communication, and every vocalization may be important. COntent dogs are generally quiet in my own experiences. When dog vocalization begins also, it is the right time to train and remedy the issue for the long term.

    So, it matters not how much barking is reasonable. It is unreasonable NOT to attend to the noise as soon as it starts. If you love your dog, you would care enough to pay attentionto it. And quiet it ASAP in respect for your dog firstly and therest of the community. A barking dog is a dog that will draw negative attention to itself. It is in the dog owners best interest to remedy barking as soon as it starts.

    If other committments may prevent this level of attention, there are three courses of action. Dog minding, dog training and the final is to reconsider your true ability to keep a dog within the requirements of the law and the needs of the community and the dog itself. Re-evaluate you true ability or suitability to own a dog.

    Our animal refuge centers are full because of one simple reason. People do not realistically assess themselves for pet ownership. I have had pets, and now I don’t because realistically, I shouldn’t own one due to my committments.Unfortunately, new laws may bring a huge number of pouches to our animal refuges. It is a shame but a phase our communities will have to pass through in order to get the true balance of pet ownership and animal control enforcement just right. Licensing is just one way to make a start of proper animal controls. Licensing includes education etc..

    Support stronger laws for less animal cruelty, more peacefull communities and safer streets and parks. One should prove their ability to own and control their pets.

  10. It’s about time. As someone who has had to put up with an excessively barking dog, whom the owner does not look after properly, I am glad that this kind of law has come into effect.
    I hope people with dogs don’t feel under attack from this law, as four out of five neighbors who have dogs are responsible for only 5% of the barking. I myself want to get a dog one day too when I am no longer renting but I, like nearly all dog owners, will take responsibility for it and do everything in my power to ensure it does not bark unnecessarily.

  11. Many people actually don’t know what nuisance barking is and will place a complaint in for any form of barking. Dogs play an important role in our communities and not only protect but can alert that something is not right. Dogs have barks for different reasons. at the moment a complaint may be placed that is invalid and at times vexatious – and I have been victim to that. I was always home, my dog barks when people pass the house and if they stands out the front and taunt the dog they will bark. I know of a lovely lady just recently who is now being monitored as a complaint was placed on her dog from another street with a park between them. difficult to pinpoint her dog as the nuisance unless I suppose they were standing outside her property – but this is not nuisance.

    and this is often the issue – people stand outside my property talking and they are aware my dog is barking at them. I will go out and see what the issue is if he does not stop once I have called to him. then I will make him come inside if the people don’t move. if I am not home how do I stop him but the people wont move? se where I am at. dogs bark it is communication. children scream and adults talk very loud on their phones or outside waiting to leave in a car. yes there are nuisance dogs and they need controlling primarily through owner training. but I would like to see a little more education and tolerance from people who feel they have the right to complain and structure other people’s lives to be like theirs. my dog prevented a robbery one morning – it was the home/car of the person who placed the complaint to get at us.

    pretty much as a pet owner you have to be on constant alert but sometimes things happen and if they are out of character then this is a good sign things are not right.

    but we also live in communities and as with loud music, day care centres, church bells, the aged taking too long to cross the road etc, dogs barking may be annoying to some people – but it is not nuisance barking and I am yet to see this properly explained. There is little positive information rather what you can do if a dog barks.

    true if my dog isn’t a nuisance barker there’s not an issue. but my dog wasn’t and rarely barked – I was at home all day for months before the complaint was raised. the letter that followed our review period basically said that nothing further would happen as the complaint had been retracted as the nuisance had stopped but should it start again then action would be taken.

    but there was never a problem to start with. my dog really didn’t bark at all, only when people were passing by the house. the day we received the report my dog went in for an operation and so during the 14 day trial he definitely didn’t bark as he was confined inside the house. so…?

    the message is there is nothing that stops people using these laws to get to you and i’m not the only one in our street. in fact the person appears to be a serial complainer but this is never addressed by the rangers they just keep investigating each complaint as annoyed as they are with the person.

  12. Dog owners always drag out the endless self justified list of endless excuses for inflicting offensive noise and threats onto neighbours. There are NO excuses other than a direct attack with a threat to assult. . Dog owners have granted themselves superior rights to invade their neighbours privacy and expect gratitude. Using a dog as an endless alarm system is selfish in the extreme. Your personal security is not greater than my right to enjoy my own house and yard. Electronic security alarms and basic police recommendation for security do not include dogs. There are hundreds of thousands of dogs barking their heads off day and night creating an urban dog kennel.

  13. There should be no dogs at all in built-up areas, and this usually this means the suburbs.

    Confining a dog unnaturally within an environemt which is clearly unsuited to it is animal cruelty. This cruety is universal because owners just don’t think.

    Human selfishness says “I don’t care. It’s my dog and I’ll do as I like with it!”

  14. As far as barking goes the problem is not the barking itself but the amount of barking, as with any noise nuisance. Dogs are no different. If my dog stops barking Im getting a new dog as I rely on her to let me know whats going on outside. As crime is ever on the increase this is vital. A simple fact is burglars will target houses without dogs before those that have dogs. I believe the law here says no more than six minutes in an hour during the day (until 9:00 PM). This seems reasonable, any more than that would annoy the hell out of me too. So now the dogs are controlled and the barks are being countered all is good on that scene. Now to control the neighbourhood pest serial complaining neighbours and give everyone some peace…

  15. I wish to share my story. I’m in NSW. Within a 10-70 meters I have 5 immediate owner with dogs some with 2 to three. All have turns in Barking. A few years ago I had a major operation. On return home from hospital I required sleep for my recovery as I only got about 3 hrs in hospital other than the 4 hours I was on the operating table. I tried to get accommodation else where rather than recoup at home, knowing of the disruption I would have to face. At about 2.30am I finally nodded off out of sear exhaustion; because of the operation and other medical issues I had pain laying on my side, stomach or flat on my back. I was able to roll various towel etc to support a position in my bed which was least painful. One of neighbours had gone away for 4 days leave her 2 small dogs alone. As said a 2.30am I finally nodded of out of exhaustion, at 2.32am the dogs started yapping and howling. It was continuous till about 6.30am where they had a rest. If I had enough energy I would have cried. I could not move from my bed. I was suicidal – but had not energy to do anything about it. The 4 other immediate neighbours were away, so weren’t there to share, as was the owner of the dogs. Of course the owner never hear it. On and off I experience these dogs for 7 years. A couple of dogs had died, only to be replaced with others.
    Please yes to your law for immediate action against owners and in circumstance like mine, the immediate removal of such pests, and send the bill to the owners with a recording of their pest in stress barking and crying. I do feel sorry for the pets too. I’m not anti pets and like dogs too. I’m anti irresponsible owners and the process for how councils act against those owners, it is a long long drawn out process to get anything done without any guarantee of an outcome. In NSW if you get a Noise or Nuusance Order which could take 6 months to a year, the council doesn’t remove the dogs, or act against the owners. It then down to us to take them to court to get a further action. Judges are reluctant to remove or have an immediate response. Again yes to the approach here. I can’t see it workable in the current suggest form. Like the barking register collar- if the owner take a dog inside for a long period they bark less, for one example, avoidance and compliance- as suggest by another respondent is a major issue.

  16. Since 2013 we have been contacting our local ranger regarding a barking dog that barks for 2 weeks solid while its owner is away fifo, someone calls in every 2nd or 3rd day to feed the dogs but the barking doesn’t stop all night to a point it has caused a lot of health problems. we are not the only family in the street complaining, we have just completed or 2nd dog diary. then nothing its back to barking constantly and nothing is being done about it.how can we make the shire responsible to enforce these laws? how can we gets some peace?

  17. Mrs. Mitchell:

    I totally agree with you. I do not own a dog or would I unless trained not to bark.
    Many people do not think about the person next door that may be on their sick
    bed or the person that works at night or really whenever. Dog barking is annoying
    not matter time of day or night. Also what about the new mom with a baby that
    she is trying to get to sleep. Everyone needs some peace and their rest and then
    maybe WE would not be so grumpy because of a barking dog day and night.

  18. We have been dealing with 2 dog barking problems. They are next door to each other and are directly behind our home. The first one started in 2010 and the second one 2018. The rangers have been contacted more times than I can count . They have visited the both the dog owners. However, we are still subjected to this ongoing problem. We are both retired and would like to be able to enjoy our home and the outdoor area. We love our home , but do we have to entertain the idea of moving, because of inconsiderate neighbours? As of yesterday, the ranger told us the owners of both the dogs don’t consider them to be a nuisance. It states that any dog that barks for more than 5 minutes in the space of an hour qualifies it as a nuisance. My husband has just undergone open heart surgery and doesn’t need this on top of everything he has been through. Needless to say it is impacting on our health and the enjoyment of our home. Are we able to sue in small claims court, if we can’t get this solved any other way? I woudl appreciate any help you can give us, as we are at our wits end.

    Regards
    Patricia Hayward

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