One “barking” complaint is all it could take for the family dog to be investigated for nuisance behaviour, after new tougher laws are introduced in Western Australia this week.
Under new legislation, among other changes, stronger provisions will be given to local governments to deal with dogs, allowing them to take action when just one person is affected by barking or other nuisance behaviour.
The Minister for Local Government Tony Simpson said on Tuesday that, along with supporting evidence, just one complaint was enough to allow an investigation to take place.
Changed from a “three-strike” complaint policy, the process of investigating sole complaints could be a costly and ineffective process, according to an WA dogs and owner advocate association Dogs West.
CEO of Dogs West, Ann Rushby, said she had reviewed the proposed legislation and “did not agree” with the idea that one complaint could initiate an investigation.
One barking complaint is “not enough to prove” that a family pet is a problem and it left owners as an open target for people who had another agenda, she said.
“Dogs do bark for other reasons and some people do get them for security measures, to protect their property or warn them if something is happening,” Ms Rushby said.
She said the process could also “prove costly” for dog owners and the local council who would be investigating the complaints.
Mr Simpson said the changes meant that councils would follow a “best practice” investigation guideline, which included electronic collar devices which record the decibels and length of barking.
Other amendments included a stronger definition of what constitutes “nuisance barking”, which also covered public places adjoining the property.
It was not clear what the guidelines were for councils dealing with a “nuisance” dog, however a media advisor for Mr Simpson said more information would be available after the legislation had been implemented.
Ms Rushby said it was a concern that dog owners would not be able to pay for the training or devices required to prevent a dog from barking and said the new legislation could prove to be “worse for the dog”.
She said it was “unclear” whether more dogs would be put down by their owner because they could not afford to prevent their dog from being a nuisance.
She said collars used to stop trouble dogs from barking or drastic vocal operations were extremely costly.
“I don’t know what the proposal is for the long term, if the dog is not able to be retrained because the owner can’t afford to,” she said.
“I wouldn’t want my own dog ‘put down’ because it barked too much.”
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