Barking Dogs

What to do about barking dogs?

Pets in strata are now a fact of everyday life. Since the NSW Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that bylaws banning pets were “harsh, oppressive and unconscionable” every scheme across the state has adjusted to the new reality that, well, pets are part of the strata family.

The Court decision coincided with COVID lockdowns when pet ownership boomed as people sought out a furry friend to keep them company. According to a Latrobe University study, one in five families with children got a new cat or dog in 2020. Overall, the proportion of households with pets rose to 70 per cent through the pandemic, from 60 per cent before.

Pets in strata

While difficult to quantify, the combination of those two events has led to an even bigger increase in the proportion of strata households with pets. That is only likely to increase further with new rental laws that limit the power of landlords to ban pets from their properties.

Pet rights, however, come with responsibilities. In strata, this means keeping pets under control so that they do not behave in a way that breaches by-laws, typically those catch-all provisions about unreasonable interference with the ability of other people to peacefully enjoy their property.

When it comes to pets, by far the most common “unreasonable interference” is barking dogs.

As with anything in strata, if a barking dog is becoming a nuisance, then the good neighbour thing to do is to seek out the owner. This is emotional territory, so it is important to approach the owner helpfully and to offer suggestions rather than simply demand action.

If it was a pet relationship forged in lockdown, and the owner is back in the office, then they may be unaware that this has become a problem.

Persistent barking can be a sign that something is wrong, or simply that the dog is bored or frightened when alone. There are a range of strategies and interventions to be explored online.

What to do if communicating with the owner hasn’t helped?

If the owner is unwilling to deal with the problem, then there are legal options. One is to ask your strata committee to authorise the strata manager to issue a formal notice of a by-law breach. If the problem persists, the next step is formal mediation. If that is unsuccessful, the matter can be taken to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. That application must be supported by evidence such as recordings and diaries and will involve a formal hearing before any orders can be issued.

A quicker route is usually through the local council which has the power to enforce noise regulations. Again, they will require evidence before a council visits the dog owner. If the complaint is substantiated, fines will be issued and increased for any subsequent breaches.

Read more about Pets in Strata

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August 2023

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