Animal Nuisance (ACT)
Neighbourhood disputes often arise about domestic animals. In the ACT, these disputes are regulated by the Domestic Animals Act 2000. This act sets out the responsibilities that pet owners have in relation to looking after, controlling and cleaning up after their pets, and what can be done when a person fails to take responsibility for their animals. This article deals with animal nuisance complaints in the ACT.
What responsibilities do pet owners have?
Under the Domestic Animals Act, pet owners must ensure that their pets are registered and must not keep more than four dogs or cats on a property without a licence to do so. Dogs must be restrained when in public places and must not be taken into prohibited areas. Cats born after 1 July 2022 are required to be contained on the owner’s property 24 hours a day. Penalties apply for failing to adhere to these rules.
There is a range of situations involving domestic animals that can lead to complaints of animal nuisance. Animal nuisance occurs when an animal causes damage to property, causes an excessive disturbance or causes an unacceptable risk to the public or to another animal, or when a dog is not kept under control or adequately restrained.
The most common types of animal nuisance complaint are summarised below.
A common source of tension between neighbours is dogs that bark excessively. A complaint about barking dogs can be made to Domestic Animal Services if the situation cannot be resolved by talking to the neighbour directly. The complaint form includes a ‘bark diary’ setting out when barking occurred and for how long, which must be filled out for at least four days.
Animal not adequately controlled
If a dog or cat is not being contained on the owner’s property and is causing damage or disturbances to neighbours, an animal nuisance complaint can be made. In this situation, if the animal is a dog and it has attacked a person or an animal, there may also be other steps that need to be taken, such as criminal charges to be laid.
Domestic Animal Services may investigate and issue a nuisance notice if it is substantiated. The owner of the animal will be informed of the complaint and given two weeks to address the situation before any action is taken.
A nuisance notice must state the nuisance that is to be stopped or reduced, state where it is being caused and state that if it is not reduced or stopped, legal proceedings may be commenced.
In deciding whether to issue a notice, the following will be considered:
- How many people are affected by the nuisance;
- The damage, danger or disturbance it is causing;
- Any reasonable precautions the owner has taken to reduce the effects of the nuisance;
- Any reasonable precautions the person affected has taken to reduce the effects of the nuisance.
An animal that is causing a nuisance may be seized depending on the extent of the nuisance and the likelihood or the owner stopping or reducing the nuisance. An animal may also be seized because the owner has not complied with a nuisance order.
The animal must be returned if the nuisance is unlikely to be repeated and (if it is a dog) it does not pose an unacceptable risk to the safety of the public.
Dangerous and menacing dogs
If a dog attacks, injures or menaces a person or another animal, it may be declared a dangerous dog or a menacing dog. Such a declaration results in the owner having to abide by additional precautions to keep the dog contained and controlled. Failure to abide by these precautions can result in criminal sanctions.
Serious dog attacks may result in the dog being seized and destroyed. This occurs when the registrar considers the animal to be an unacceptable risk to the safety of the public or to other animals and cannot be reasonably rehoused, retrained or rehabilitated.
Offences under the Domestic Animals Act
There is a range of criminal offences that a person can be charged with under the Domestic Animals Act. These range from minor offences such as failing to dispose of dog faeces to ore serious offences like allowing a dog to attack a person or animal causing serious injury, which can attract a term of imprisonment. A person can also be charged with an offence for allowing an animal nuisance.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.