What you in partnership with Monash Council can do
Dogs are an important part of our local community and provide great companionship for people of all ages.
However, dogs that bark excessively can become a source of irritation for neighbours and others in the area. One of the most frequent complaints about animals in the City of Monash relates to the nuisance caused by barking dogs.
Please read: How can I stop my dog from barking?
Around 30% to 40% of the Community Laws Officers’ time is spent dealing with issues relating to barking dogs. If you have a problem with a neighbour’s barking dog, or if your own dog is barking too much, this information may help. The earlier that ‘problem barking’ is tackled, the easier it is to control.
Why dogs bark
Dogs bark for many reasons, and even though they appear to be “barking for no reason” they are trying to communicate something.
The main reasons dogs bark are:
- Lack of exercise
- Inadequate yard space
- Lack of socialisation
- Boredom or lack of stimulation, mental or physical
- Not enough human companionship
- Inadequate shelter from weather conditions
- Hunger or thirst
- Medical conditions such as an illness or discomfort
- Disturbances such as thunder, wind, unusual sounds
- Seeking attention
- Separation anxiety (being anxious when separated from family members) or changes to family structure that can lead to destructiveness, howling or escaping;
- Movement outside the dog’s property
Dogs also bark to alert their owners of trouble, such as someone entering the property or a fire. Remember, a dog’s idea of an “intruder” may differ to that of the owner.
It could include cats, possums, other dogs, or even birds flying across the property. While it is acceptable for a dog to bark to warn its owner of an intruder, it is the owner’s responsibility to train the dog not to bark at “normal” occurrences such as possums, cats and birds.
Issues for neighbours
What can I do?
Neighbours can often help to resolve barking problems by talking to each other about their concerns and needs. Neighbours may be able to help identify the reasons for excessive barking by noting what is happening in the area when the dog is barking.
The owner may not be aware their dog is the possible cause of a nuisance.
This may be because:
- The dog may only bark excessively when the owner is not home.
- The owner may not hear the barking from some areas in their house.
- The owner may be a very sound sleeper and does not wake when the dog barks.
The sooner the problem of excessive barking is tackled, the easier it is to solve.
Often these issues are quickly resolved at a neighbour level with minimal Council involvement. However, the ones that don’t get fixed easily, and generally drag on for a long time, can involve Council Animal Management Officers and possibly an unpleasant and expensive legal process.
The following steps may help to resolve the issue in a neighbourly manner:
Approach the dog’s owner when the problem arises and state your case clearly and politely. He or she may not be aware of the barking situation. Provide the dog owner or keeper with a copy of your recent log of barking times and possible reasons. If you are uncomfortable or unable to approach the owner, write a letter setting out the issues that concern you.
Sample letter to be used for addressing a neighbour
If the neighbour takes no action, or does not think a problem exists, you may choose to contact the Department of Justice, which funds a free and private Dispute Settlement service for people who find themselves in a dispute/conflict with another person. This service uses mediation as a way of settling neighbourhood disputes without expensive legal action.
Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria
4th Floor 456 Lonsdale Street,
Tel: 1300 372 888, fax: 9603 8355, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If these options are not successful, residents can contact Council and submit a Formal Complaint notification.
If Council officers believe a nuisance exists, and their efforts at a local level do not resolve the problem, then Council - through the Domestic Animals Act and with your assistance as a witness - can pursue the matter through the courts.
Remember, it is your case Council officers are prosecuting, so it is the completeness and accuracy of your sworn evidence, and that of your neighbours, that will help achieve a satisfactory court decision.
A sample letter is available if you are not comfortable approaching the dog owner in person. There is also a page of hints on how to stop the dog barking and some useful information that you can give to the dog’s owner.
To make a complaint to Council, we recommend you have:
- Advised the dog owner of the nuisance
- Identified other immediate neighbour(s) who are also affected by the barking
- Considered resolving the issue through an independent party like the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria.
- Understood that Council officers, if unable to negotiate a solution, may ultimately require you, and your neighbour, to provide sworn evidence in court, hence the need to collect and keep accurate records of the problem.
Then you can start lodging a barking dog complaint.
Note: Lodging a formal complaint with Council should be your last option as it could ultimately lead to court where you will be required as a witness.
Lodge formal complaint
The procedure for lodging a barking dog complaint:
- Identify the correct address and description of the offending dog(s).
- Keep a log of the dog’s barking habits for a period of 7 days, noting the date, time, weather conditions, the reason and duration of barking and the effect the barking is having on you at the time of the barking.
- Complete: Barking Dog Diary(PDF, 261KB)
- Forward to Council the Diary that has been completed by you and any other neighbours affected by the barking.
- Continue to keep a log of the dog's barking habits. This will monitor whether the problem continues or improves as a result of any action taken by the owner, neighbours or Council.
- Gather any other evidence (for example, audio/video of barking).
- Confirm with other neighbours who are prepared to corroborate your evidence.
What Council can do once a complaint is made
When Council receives a complaint, a Community Laws Officer will contact you to discuss the issue, what can be done, and what you need to do.
It is important you help Council by working with the Officer to demonstrate the barking behaviour and the impact of the barking behaviour when the barking is occurring.
You may be required to keep a diary of the barking and may also be required to be a witness in court, if the issue cannot be resolved.
A Community Laws Officer will then discuss possible solutions with the dog’s owner and may issue a Notice to Comply, if necessary. If no action is taken by the dog’s owner, and reconciliation attempts fail, Council can take enforcement action including an application for a Court Order. You will then be required to go to Court as a witness and give evidence.
Council may consider taking the matter to court, if:
- There is sufficient evidence available to support the existence of a barking nuisance
- The dog owner has not complied with the Notice to Comply
- All avenues for reconciliation/resolution are exhausted
- The person making the complaint agrees to give evidence in court