Are you barking mad?

COFFS HARBOUR City Council rangers handle more than 2500 dog complaints each year and the majority concern barking.

Dogs bark for a number of reasons, but regardless of the cause, the reality is that a barking dog can be a real nuisance for neighbours.

The following guidelines are designed to help reduce problems associat- ed with barking dogs.

- Discussion

If you have not already done so you should discuss the problem with the owner of the dog. They may not be aware that you have a problem with their barking dog.

In most cases owners will want to do the right thing and will co-operate.

However, if this is unsuccessful, you should contact the council who can make initial ap- proaches on your behalf.

- Mediation

Contact the Community Justice Centre in Newcastle on 1800 990 777. This is a free mediation ser- vice.

- Complain to the council

If the first two steps are unsuccessful, a report should be obtained from the Community Justice Centre and lodged with the council who will decide on the validity of the complaint and decide whether legal action is necessary.

This should only be a last resort.

The council may take action under the Companion Animals Act and issue Dog Nuisance Orders on the owner or other action under the Protection Of The Environment Operations Act.

It should be noted that the burden of proof in these matters is that of the criminal standard beyond reasonable doubt.

This means that, before a court, the council would be required to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the dog barking was a nuisance.

To obtain this proof, the council will require diaries to be kept by at least two individuals outlining the times and duration of the nuisance barking.

The council will also require a guarantee that complainants would be willing to attend court as the council's witnesses should the matter go that far.

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