DOG LAW REFORM

Submission to the Government during its
Review of the Dog Control Act 2000


TOPIC: Vexatious Complaints


There is a common perception that wilfully mischievous barking complaints occur.
To deter such complaints councils may impose a fee prior to an investigation - the fee being
retained in the event that the complaint was later deemed frivolous, mischievous, vexatious or
otherwise lacking in substance.
The imposition of a fee on a barking victim already distressed by lawbreaking is increasingly
seen as insidious and insulting.


The Paper Day barking elaborates further:

There are two ways to initiate a councilís intervention to control barking:

1. You can make an informal complaint by phone or by letter, or by visiting the council office
and discussing the problem with an Animal Control Officer (ACO). A good council will act
forthwith to under its own Dog Management Policy to alleviate your concern and restore peace
to the neighbourhood.

2. You may visit your council office and fill in a very simple form that details the basic facts of
the matter. Your complaint becomes formal when you pay the required fee. Currently (early
2005) this fee ranges from $11 to $55 including the GST.

Each council conducts its investigation in its own way in order to seek evidence in support of
your complaint. Because the alleged offender has a right of defence to any remedial action
intended by the council, the investigatorís underlying intention while monitoring the premises
containing the dog is to secure legally acceptable proof of the alleged offence. This is often
very much harder than you might think, particularly as every dogís barking is intermittent
despite the complainantís subjective evaluation that it is continuous.


Recommended:


1. That the unsupported verbal complaint of any person claiming to be aggrieved by barking (or
the verbal report of any person claiming to act on that aggrieved personís behalf) be
automatically accepted by any authorised person as a sufficient evidence of fact (unless there
be demonstrable grounds to challenge its verity) and which upon notification immediately
constitutes sufficient grounds for the prompt alleviation, cessation or effective intervention and
control of that animalís behaviour by any authorised person. This may include immediate
impoundment, particularly if the owner is absent from the premises.

2. That if an authorised person is of the opinion that the complaint, howsoever received, may
be mischievously motivated or lacking in substance, he may decline to intervene to the extent
desired by the complainant while declaring his reasons, but that if that complainant supplies (or
undertakes to supply) a Statutory Declaration in support of his allegation, then its provision (or
stated intent to provide it) immediately constitutes a sufficient cause for the authorised person
to intervene forthwith as if the complaintís validity was absolute.

3. That if a complaint is proven to be wilfully malicious the maximum penalty for this deception
be double that financial penalty which would have been imposed upon the dogís owner if the
offence mischievously alleged had been proven.

4. That no fee be imposed upon any person complaining about noxious barking.