KEEPING DOGS IN TOWN AREAS
Ownership and the keeping of dogs in a town area is an area that can lead to a lot of dissent within a community between dog owners and people who do not have dogs.
The Etheridge Shire Council has a regulatory role to play in this area and has a specific Local Law and Subordinate Local Law which seeks to set out the requirements that must be adhered to by dog owners in the Shire so as to minimise the possible causes of conflict in residential areas that may arise when dogs are kept in town areas and not suitability controlled.
Council local laws require the registration of dogs and, until recently, this registration requirement was enforced along with the requirement to pay an annual registration fee. In the absence of complaints about dog behaviours in town areas Council ceased enforcing the annual registration requirements in July 1999.
Whilst Council has no wish to reintroduce registration and the payment of annual registration fees at this time this is dependant on the level of cooperation received from dog owners in the community with ‘self-regulation’ to ensure that dogs kept in town areas are kept in accordance with the requirements of Council’s Local Laws and the Environmental Protection Act (EPA).
A recent spate of incidents involving complaints about dogs causing nuisances is indicating that the ‘self-regulation’ approach taken by Council may need to be reviewed. This information brochure seeks to provide a summary of the main requirements of Council’s Local Laws and the EPA.
Number of Dogs that may be kept on a residential premises
Generally the maximum number of dogs that may be kept on a residential premises is two (2). Dogs under three months of age are not counted. The keeping of more than two dogs over the age of three (3) months requires a special permit and will only generally be allowed if special circumstances warrant the granting of the permit and appropriate control of the dogs is kept.
Dogs are to be suitably restrained on the residential premises
It is a requirement that premises on which dogs are kept have a fully fenced area designed and erected to effectively contain a dog on the land and prevent the dog from wandering or escaping from the premises. If, in the opinion of the Chief Executive Officer, the dog can be effectively contained on the property at all times by the use of a running chain or lead, a permit may be granted to allow this option. A person who keeps an animal must maintain a proper enclosure to keep the animal on the person's land and prevent the animal from wandering or escaping from the land.
Dogs to be under control at all times – particularly in public places
Dogs are not allowed to ‘wander at large’ outside the residential properties of their owners. This means that owners of dogs taking them outside of the residential properties must use a leash or a tether to a fixed object when the dog is outside.
Person in charge of dog to clean up dog faeces
If a dog defecates in a public place, the person in charge of the dog must immediately remove, and dispose of, the faeces in a sanitary way.
Most of the above requirements carry regulatory penalties of up to 20 penalty units (approximately $1,500 in fines) if actions are taken by Council for a breach of these requirements.
Duty to avoid nuisances
A person must not keep an animal on land if -
(a) the animal causes a nuisance; or
(b) the animal exposes the health or safety of others to significant risk; or
(c) the animal creates a reasonable apprehension in the minds of others of a threat to their health or safety.
This area of the requirements is the area of most complaints and carries a maximum penalty of $7,500 if actions are taken by Council for a breach of these requirements
Duty to ensure that a dog does not attack or worry another person or animal
A person must not cause, encourage or permit a dog to attack or worry another person or an animal.
This area of the requirements is the area of most concern and a number of recent complaints have been received on this (attack against animals – poultry and stock). This carries a maximum penalty of $15,000 if actions are taken by Council for a breach of these requirements. In addition to this Council may order the destruction of the dog.
Noise caused by barking dogs – Environmental Protection Act
Thousands of complaints are received every year by local governments and the EPA from residents affected by noise from barking dogs and other domestic animals. More complaints are received about barking dogs than any other residential nuisance.
Guidelines for what is considered to be acceptable barking coming from residential premises are as follows:-
7am to 10pm: No more than six minutes of noise in any hour
10pm to 7am: No more than three minutes of noise in any 30-minute period
This is only a summary of matters with respect to responsible dog ownership from the perspective of dogs being kept in a residential environment. Pet ownership is meant to be an enjoyable experience for both the owners of dogs and other residents in the area. Further information on any of the above matters may be obtained from the Council Offices or by telephoning 4062 1233 during business hours.