Animal noise, animal issues and neighbours

neighbour animals 2Animal noise and other issues

Across Australia each state (and territory) has its own laws on how domestic animals are to behave and to be controlled by their owners. In a nutshell, the laws are fairly similar with a common theme running through them.
If you want to look at the exact laws for your area just click the link.

Let’s start by looking at the most important things that must be done by owners of cats, dogs and any other animal, bird or reptile to ensure their neighbours are given the right they have under under law to enjoy your property without interference from a neighbour. Your neighbour actually commits what is called a ‘private nuisance’ when they substantially and unreasonably affect your enjoyment of your property and you can take this up with your local council and if that fails, the local courts.

The common themes of the various laws relating to domestic animals on your property are:

♦ Dogs and cats must be registered with the local council. The exceptions being:
NT – No rego of dogs or cats required
ACT & TAS – Dogs only
QLD – All dogs and cats for some councils (you need to check with your council)
♦ Animals must not be a nuisance to neighbours through their noise or behaviour.

♦ Owners must clean up after their pets in public places.
♦ Local councils can make orders restricting the number of animals kept at premises.
♦ Dogs must not rush at, attack, bite, harass or chase a person or another animal and it is an offence for a person to set on or urge a dog to do this.
(An exception to this would be when any dog has been teased, attacked, mistreated or otherwise provoked or when a person or animal is trespassing and the dog is acting in reasonable defence of a person or property.)

Dangerous dogs must be registered
There are specific requirements for dogs that are ‘restricted’ because they are a certain breed or declared dangerous. These include requiring the dog to be desexed. The dog must wear a distinctive collar (red and fluorescent yellow stripes) and be housed in a proper enclosure. Warning signs must be displayed at the premises where the dog is kept.
When outside the enclosure, a dangerous dog must be on a lead and muzzled and when in public, must not be in the charge of a person under 18 years.
If you’re not sure whether your dog is classified ‘dangerous’ you can talk to your council. However, if your dog has an aggressive nature or in the past has attacked a person (or another animal) or has even damaged property, there is a very high chance it would be classified as dangerous.

When does a dog (or other animal) become a nuisance?
Dogs normally become a nuisance if they are always wandering away from their home or make a noise that is so persistent or occurs to such an extent that it unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of any person in other premises They also become a nuisance if they repeatedly defecate on a neighbour’s property, repeatedly chase people, vehicles or other animals or they repeatedly cause major damage to anything outside the property where they are kept.
Cats are a nuisance when they make a noise that is so persistent or occurs to such an extent that it unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of any neighbour or when it repeatedly damages anything outside of the property where it is lives.

What can I do about a pet that is a nuisance?

Communicate directly with your neighbour

great dane vintageNow you have an idea of what sort of behaviour is a nuisance. If a neighbour’s animal is being a nuisance, the next step is to make an effort to raise these problems with your neighbour. This is often the most effective and successful way of managing the problem of a barking dog or constantly meowing cat. When you approach your neighbour get your timing right (when they’re rushing to go to work or it’s late at night probably isn’t the best time), and always be polite and reasonable.

There is a good chance your neighbour isn’t aware their dog is excessively barking or causing a problem for you and other neighbours. If you are not comfortable with making a direct personal approach, you should consider writing a letter or email to advise them of the problem and how the barking (or any other problem) is affecting you. You should include details about when the problem occurs to help them pinpoint how to fix it. Once again, make your correspondence polite and don’t be tempted to ‘go on the attack’.
Talk to the local council

If this approach does not lead to an improvement over the following week or so (please understand that solving problems doesn’t happen overnight), the next step is to take it up with your local council.
The role of the local council
Depending on where you live your council will usually be responsible for investigating any noise or safety issue relating to a neighbour’s animals.
If the Council’s investigation confirms your complaint, it has the authority to issue orders to your neighbour. The order can direct the owner to deal with the nuisance. Noise abatement orders can be made when the problem is an excessively barking dog. Owners who fail to follow these orders they can face fines and other penalties. (Please refer to your state laws for specifics.)
The Environmental Protection Agencies
Each State and Territory has a government body such as an environmental protection authority which is responsible for dealing with environmental problems such as pollution or noise. They generally have names like “environmental protection authority”. They deal with many issues that relate to excessive noise. However this approach may take a little more time than going straight to your council.

The role of the police

The police should be called if the noise from pets is stopping you from sleeping or is being deliberately orchestrated by a neighbour from hell. The police can then remind offending neighbours of your right to not have to suffer from private nuisance. In some states (NSW, Qld, WA), for a quick response to temporary offensive noise, the police can issue a noise abatement direction to cease making the noise. The direction remains in force for a period of time (28 days in NSW), and there is no appeal. Breach of the direction can result in rather large fines.
The role of the courts
You can also apply to the court for orders to stop your neighbour’s pets from making excessive noise or causing other forms of disruption and damage.
In making your complaint to the court, you must show that the nuisance complained of is not trivial or unreasonable.

When deciding whether what you complain about is a “private nuisance”, the court would look at a number of factors, including:

  • The general nature of your neighbourhood;
  • Where the interference took place (or is taking place);
  • What activity is causing the interference;
  • How long the interference lasted and whether it is ongoing;
  • The time of day or night the interference occurs;
  • The impact the interference is having on you;
  • Whether the interference was pre-existing when you moved into your property;
  • How useful or necessary the activity causing the interference is;
  • What reasonable people would think of the interference.

Here are the various state and territory laws and regulations relating to animals in the neighbourhood and the community:

NSW:  Companion Animals Act 1998 and Companion Animals Regulations 2008 (Summary of law)
WA     THE DOG ACT 1976
NT      UNLISTED, but this LINK will help.

If you suspect an animal is being mistreated, contact the RSPCA Inspectors on 1300 CRUELTY (1300 278 3589) or visit the RSPCA website.