DOG LAW REFORM

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


TOPIC: Barking Complaint Fees


Tasmania’s Dog Control Act 2000 permits councils to charge a Barking Complaint Fee
This fee legally obliges a council to investigate the matter.


If the complaint is found to have substance then the fee’s refund is mandatory. If a council
deems the complaint insubstantial then it may retain the fee. “Substance” is not legally defined
so the views of a council’s general manager determine the issue.

Early in 2009 a Hobart pensioner lodged a complaint over very distressing extended local barking
and paid his council Tasmania’s highest fee - $65. It is the state’s highest because this council
exploited its legal right to charge “an appropriate fee” for the acceptance of such complaints, and
it was ruthlessly determined to reduce the number of complaints in its area.

There is no legal definition of what is “appropriate” and there’s no standards over what
constitutes an “investigation.”

It appears that this council’s investigating officers had spoken with the alleged offender about
the fitting of a bark-counting collar. These collars have been trialled in South Australia and
elsewhere with some success, however the method is not foolproof because the owner can
modify the dog’s behaviour, or send it away, for the 10 day monitoring period.

It appears that this happened in this case and because of it the complaint
was found to “lack substance.”

This finding is not supportable for a perfectly solid reason:

When a complainant lodges his formal Barking Complaint form it’s because he’s been distressed by
barking up to that point. He cannot possibly have been distressed by barking subsequent to that.
Yet it’s only from this particular point that his council begins its investigation!

The council can only find that, for the period of its post-complaint investigation, there was
insufficient grounds to deem the substance of the complaint valid over that post-complaint period
- but the post-complaint period is not what the complainant complained about!

If the council has NOT had the matter under investigation to that point
then it cannot justify a “lack of substance” finding.

Such a finding is illicit and the retention of the fee in these circumstances
constitutes theft by appropriation.


Recommended: That there be no Barking Complaint Fee