DESPICABLE FINDING BY A RUTHLESSLY INSENSITIVE COUNCIL
PENALISES TORMENTED PENSIONER $65
It appears that Hobart's Clarence City Council has wilfully and cruelly developed Tasmania's most
obnoxious policy in its treatment of those lodging formal complaints about barking dogs.
Its latest victim is Mr Alan Churchill of Warrane, an aged pensioner desperately needing local
peace and quiet for his own health and wellbeing, and to fulfil his duties
as Carer to his ailing wife.
Mr Churchill has been continuously tormented by local barking for 11 years,
worsening in the last three.
His council has generally been obstructive in its processing of his formal barking complaints.
In 2004, Mr Churchill attended a formal Rydges Hotel meeting of Greater Hobart Councils'
General managers, Mayors and Aldermen
wherein Mr Alan Garcia of the Local Government Office proposed that councils raise their
barking complaint fees to $50 - for the expressed purpose of minimising complaints. This
proposal was instantly accepted by all and Mr Churchill noted that nobody present objected to it.
Consequently the Clarence City Council council now charges $65 per barking complaint, the
state's highest fee, yet councils are constrained by the Dog Control Act 2000 to charge only
To a pensioner and impecunious others, $65 is certainly NOT an appropriate fee.
The DCA 2000 (and its predecessor, the DCA 1987) authorises Tasmania's councils
to charge a fee to initiate an investigation of barking complaints. The original purpose of a fee
was to deter those engaged in neighbourhood disputes from making mischievous barking
The Clarence City Council, in common with councils everywhere, simply does not want to
discharge its barking control responsibilities according to law.
The blame here lies mainly with the Act itself rather than with councils. The Act offers no
definitions or what constitutes barking nuisance other than that it must not
" .. unreasonably interfere with the peace, comfort or convenience
of any person in any premises .. "
There is no before court definition of what constitutes "unreasonable"
and so councils sometimes try to secure evidence sufficient to overwhelm any conceivable
courtroom challenges by the offender. This can be so difficult, particularly with intermittent and
night barking, that councils often retreat into the world of "Let's Pretend"
wherein all is well and there's really no barking problem at all.
Councils often find it convenient to side with the offender, and blaming the victim is
commonplace. Usually most of the offender's neighbours own barking dogs themselves
and as they don't want any probing spotlights on their own lack of animal control they deny
council's investigating officers the truth of the matter. They lie.
This is so common that it's become standard and predictable.
After enduring 14 months of harassment and deteriorating health from a neighbour's barking dog
Mr Churchill lodged a formal barking complaint with his council
and paid the demanded fee of $65.
In a recent letter to Mr Churchill the Clarence City Council wrote:
"Dear Mr. Churchill,
Investigation into alleged nuisance - 24 Amundsen Crescent
An investigation has been carried out in regard to a formal complaint you made about a
barking dog nuisance from the dog located at 24 Amundsen Crescent in Warrane.
Council's City Ranger surveyed nearby residents and monitored the property regarding your
complaint about barking.
Taking into account this information, the Ranger's observations, and your diary of events, I
have concluded that the dog is not barking to the extent that it could be deemed a nuisance,
under the Dog Control Act 2000.
As your complaint was found not to have substance, your application fee of $65 will not be
Should you need further information regarding this matter, please contact Phillip Gentile on
6245 8603 who will be pleased to assist.
MANAGER CUSTOMER SERVICE."
Mr Churchill has thus been penalised $65 for merely seeking peace and quiet
in and about his own home.
It's probable that the offender has not been penalised at all,
an outcome that is increasingly common.
The Clarence City Council fitted a bark-counting collar to the dog but failed to download the data
accumulated during the monitoring period. The owner denied his consent for further testing.
These electronic collars are made in Melbourne and have been trialled by South Australia's
Onkaparinga council with reportedly favourable results.
However, it has been known all along that devious owners could easily sabotage the count by
keeping the dog indoors or by having it minded in another place.
The Nuisance provisions in the DCA 2000 are in urgent need of reform. It's not only the
complainant who has a right to access unambiguous definitions, but councils and dog owners
also, because words like "reasonable", "unreasonable", "appropriate," "persistently," "injurious"
and suchlike are valueless unless defined.
It's no good leaving it to the magistrate to decide what they mean because it's too late then.
ALL parties are fully entitled to know well beforehand.
The Dog Control Act's definition of Nuisance ...
(3) A dog is a nuisance if –
(a) it behaves in a manner that is injurious or dangerous to the health
of any person; or
(b) it creates a noise, by barking or otherwise, that persistently occurs or
continues to such an extent that it unreasonably interferes with the peace,
comfort or convenience of any person in any premises or public place.
On May 5th 2009, Alan's council agreed to refund his Complaint Fee in full.
Here is Alan's report on his meeting with Mr John Toohey,
the Clarence City Council's manager of Customer Service
"I did explain that the dog was gradually increasing its barking times
deeper into the evenings and that I would want to make a further complaint,
formal if necessary, to have this addressed, but that this time I would seek legal advice
about taking the matter to court.
"I believe that this comment firmed his decision to make the refund.
"Mr Toohey told me that there would need to be at least a three month interval
between "resolution" of my last complaint and making a new one.
"He tried to tell me that I couldn't make a second complaint about the same dog,
but backed off when I said, 'Try me'.
"It seems to me that Mr Toohey is re-writing the Dog Control Act
to suit his own private agenda and to fulfil his warped version
of Clarence City Council's dog control policy.
"He rang me late yesterday afternoon to say that the refund has been approved,
but stressed that this was only on the condition of hardship
because of my pensioner status."
Quiet Tasmania offers this comment:
There is no requirement in the Dog Control Act 2000
for any interregnum between complaints,
nor is there any prohibition against the lodgement
of any number of consecutive complaints about the same dog.