WHAT TO DO ABOUT

NIGHT BARKING


Night Barking is defined here as any noise from any dog which unreasonably interferes with your peace,
comfort or convenience while you are in or about your premises (or while you are in any public place)
during the hours when your council’s relevant staff are not available. This usually means during the night
hours, the weekends, and public holidays. (Please also refer to the paper “What to do about Day Barking”.)


Night barking (as well as day barking) may be dealt with by Tasmania Police at any time of any night or day
because chronic barking is an offence under section 46 of the Dog Control Act 2000 regardless of when it
occurs, and the police are usually obliged to deal with offences that are reported to them.


There is however, a very long-standing tradition that the police may only become involved with barking
offences when council staff are not normally available, and then only minimally such as confining their
involvement to offence confirmation only. This is to conserve their availability for more serious matters – a
view supported by most citizens. The ordinary policeman regards all barking issues as so far off his radar
screen that he just doesn’t want to know about them and hardly cares at all that they exist. Despite this, duty
is duty and you have a perfect right to request a police officer’s intervention at any time – but it is in your
own interests that this be done so prudently and sparingly that the police do not become annoyed. You must
remind the police to do this. Police involvement usually ends when an offence confirmation is notified to
your council after the investigating officers return to their police station. The onus of remedy implementation
then passes to your council. It is standard practice for councils to ignore that confirmation unless your
formal complaint about the particular dog is current. Your council may then post an Abatement Notice to the
offender. Offenders can become enraged about this and may threaten their council for so doing.


You will find that the reflex response of every police officer contacted about barking is his insistent
declaration that “barking is a council matter.” This response is authorised in the Tasmanian Police Manual.
Overcoming this misrepresentation of law is nearly always your first hurdle. Your patience will be tested.
Despite your stress and annoyance try to remain polite and if you are making no headway simply ask to
speak to a more senior officer. It has been found that the higher you go the more understanding you will
find.


Night barking may be reported to your local police station by telephone. Depending on police manning
arrangements and the time of day, your call will either be taken by an officer at that station, or if it’s
unmanned then it will probably be automatically transferred to police headquarters in the city. The
telephone operator is usually just that only, and is rigidly programmed to tell you that “barking is a council
matter”. This is to get rid of you. Instead of entering into a debate about your rights and the dog laws, ask to
be transferred to the Radio Room. This will usually occur immediately. If you find any officer so
programmed that he is obtuse, rude or obstructive, ask to speak with the officer in charge. This will usually
be an experienced sergeant of police and you will very likely get a fair hearing - if you can overcome any
residual “barking is a council matter” responses. It is most beneficial if you can hold your handset (cordless
phones are ideal for this) so that the barking can be heard by the officer as it occurs - although to their credit
many officers will tell you that such “proof” is not essential to complaint acceptance. No officer can
reasonably deny the obvious ongoing barking when it’s continuously interrupting the conversation between
you! He will record the fact that he’s heard the din himself and will allocate a job number to your complaint
which then makes it official. You are entitled to ask for that number which you should immediately record.


You may be asked what you would like the police to do about your complaint. Your options are to ask that:

(a) that the offender be spoken to by attending police;

(b) that the offender be ticketed with a $200 Infringement Notice under section 64 of the Act;

(c) that the council be required, at police request, to attend the premises forthwith and (whether it’s still
barking or not) to remove the animal under section 73 of the Act;

(d) that police remove the dog themselves.

Currently you won’t get past (a) as the police have not been issued with the relevant barking offence tickets
to issue, nor do they want to interrupt a council officer’s sleep with its callout fee (the fact that your own
sleeping rights have been massacred for hours is not a consideration) and no police officer wants to clear a
smelly mess from his patrol car’s back sea, particularly after arriving at the local pound for which he has no
keys. Despite the obvious remedy of taking the dog to the local pound the legislation may eventually be
amended to delineate what happens to a siezed dog.


In the event of dissatisfaction you are entitled to take the matter to your local police inspector. Tell him the
complaint number you recorded. If still not satisfied you can make a customer service complaint addressed
to the Commissioner of Police.


It can be recommended that those with ongoing barking harassments obtain from the Printing Authority of
Tasmania a copy of The Dog Control Act 2000 and its Regulations. This may cost in the region of $10.


Councils and the police are empowered by this Act to alleviate your distress promptly, even if they are just of
the opinion that an offence has occurred. This means in theory that they don’t have to actually witness the
offence in progress - but in practice they will almost certainly expect and require cause sufficient to convince
a magistrate as to the truth of the matter. It is your task to fully support that process. You may consider
supplying a duly witnessed Statutory Declaration as this will help empower the enforcement authority.