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Council Presentation: Keston Gordon ​28 May, 2019


Councillors: I have asked to speak at today’s session as I am deeply disturbed by the noise in my area currently being caused by inadequately supervised dogs. The main offenders, and those which I have previously filed complaints against are those at ....... These dogs are left alone every weekday, and in some cases for most of the weekend. Those at .... were left alone all of last weekend and barked through Saturday night as well as through the day). I have recordings which show this. This is unfair not just to the neighbours, but to the dogs, as the EPA’s “Dealing with barking dogs” clearly states. ( Refer to footnote 1) As the Ranger’s Office is well aware, I have been complaining about these dogs since January 2019. I have tried a variety of methods to solve this problem. All have been documented in letters, emails, the council’s own “Nuisance Barking Incident Diaries” and phone calls to the ranger with the dogs barking in the background - but still the problem persists. For the information of council members here today, who may be able to help me, and I am pleading with you to do so, I will summarise the situation to date. In January I first spoke to the owners of the dogs at both ...... “Marley” from no 15, barks at anything and everything, as my neighbours in .... St and the units at .... can testify. When first approached, the young couple who rent this property seemed concerned and willing to find a solution, for which I was very grateful, as the intensity and frequency of Marley’s barking is very distressing - particularly when he is metres from your windows. As my neighbour Kim said to me on 21 May, “He’s the noisiest dog I have ever heard.” Kim can clearly be heard in several of my videos yelling at Marley, as can people over the back fence at ..... Steve, another neighbour, is looking for somewhere else to rent in order to get away from the barking. Neither of them however were prepared to support me officially in my complaints to Council. At my suggestion, Marley’s owners agreed to erect a barrier to try and restrict the dog’s vision of the triggers in the street which set him off - motorcycles, cars, lawn mowers, the postman, kids going to school, neighbours going to work or taking out the garbage, visitors, junk mail deliverers, birds, planes, even the rangers. (His barking then sets off a series of other dogs, primarily the two directly behind me at ....). I provided some bamboo screening, at my expense, to try and limit the distractions. Unfortunately this made no difference at all. I have left polite notes at both houses, apologising for complaining, informing them of particularly bad days and pleading for them to do something. None of these notes were acknowledged in any way even though I left my name and address. On several occasions I spoke to the residents of both properties personally, but they were not interested in listening and seemed angry and resentful that I was raising the issue. The woman at ..... originally denied that there was a noise problem, then stated that I should be more tolerant, and finally told me that she would not speak to me as I was being confrontational. On another occasion when I suggested to her partner that they try a citronella collar, as recommended by the RSPCA, he told me “We’re not comfortable with that”. When I finally realised that neither household were either able or willing to control their dogs, I (foolishly) informed them that I would be contacting the Council. There followed weeks of harassment and intimidation toward myself and those in the flats behind. I won’t go into the details here, but the police were informed. I have kept records of what occurred and if the Council are not able to resolve the problem of the barking, and the matter goes to court, I will gladly supply details and witnesses. Since then, the rangers have been out on a number of occasions. They have spoken to me twice. The first time I played the videos I’d recorded and was told by MH that he agreed that the barking he heard and saw on these recordings was distressing and he could understand why I was so upset. He actually apologised on behalf of his boss (Nathan….?) that no action had been taken so far and assured me that now he had heard for himself how serious the situation was, action would be taken against the dog owners if excessive barking continued. It has. The second time, May 20, two rangers came. They spent 15 or 20 minutes talking to a woman at 15 .... Street who I have only ever seen once before. She claimed to be the owner of the dog (which seems very strange as she certainly doesn’t live there.) She also claimed, according to the ranger, that I provoke the barking - A ridiculous, fallacious and frankly, an insulting accusation. This time, I was told that the recordings could not be taken as evidence, as the barking needed to be witnessed by the rangers in person over a number of visits. MH told me that I am even being avoided now by some of my own neighbours who are also reluctant to make official complaints to the council, as they are afraid that their dogs (or piano-playing children) may be retaliated against in some way. Seriously? Why are people so wary of making complaints to this Council? Complaints are meant to be confidential are they not? Fortunately, Person A and B passed on the “nuisance barking diaries” they agreed to complete to their neighbours Person C and D, who then contacted me about the issue, and are now supporting me in my attempts to have the barking stopped. Person D, a former Head of the Australian War Memorial, a former Director of the Australian National Gallery and a former Prime Ministerial advisor, has written to the council on behalf of the Body Corporate of ..... The Council took his complaint seriously enough to respond and ask for “patience” while they investigate the situation. Isn’t that what they have been doing since January? How much patience are we meant to have? My mental and physical health have been affected by this ongoing issue. I now take medication for anxiety, and have had repeated outbreaks of dermatitis, caused in my doctor’s opinion, by stress. I am unable to teach or practise yoga and meditation in my own home due to the noise from the dogs. Nor can I work as a telephone counsellor or an on-line English teacher as I had hoped when I left my overseas teaching job a year ago to care for my ageing mother. She came to visit earlier in the month but asked to go home after four days as she couldn't abide the barking. I am now in the process of buying a new property (deposit paid on Friday) which means decimating my superannuation fund. I had hoped to rent the ..... property out, but how do I with a clear conscience accept rent from someone I know will suffer as I have? Protection of the Environment Operations Act, 1997 and The Companion Animals Act 1998, No. 87, Part 5, Division 1A (32a) (EPA.nsw.gov.au/your-environment/noise) states that pets are deemed a nuisance if they make persistent or excessive noise. My recordings and noise disturbance diaries clearly show this to be the case. My neighbours and I do not legally have to put up with noise-pollution in any form, including that of barking dogs. The Council and the Ranger’s Office in particular cannot fail to to be aware of these Acts so why are they refusing to take effective and enforceable action? The community has a right to know. So, to summarise, what I would like to ask this Council today is: Why has no concrete action been taken against the dog owners until now, in spite of a number of complaints from different people, my recordings being available as evidence, nuisance barking diaries having been submitted, and one of the rangers himself having heard the barking? What in the Council’s opinion constitutes evidence of a real problem, one which warrants enforceable action, and why do the goal-posts keep changing? (ie. noise-diaries, multiple complaints, recorded barking no longer sufficing). When, and in what form will enforceable and effective action be taken to stop the excessive and distressing barking? What compensation do the council intend to offer me for medical expenses and costs associated with moving to a new property next month? ( I have already had one real-estate agent come to look at my property and after telling me what a delightful area I lived in, being scared witless by the barking she encountered on returning to her car.) Thank you for your time and I hope we can find a resolution to the problem here within the Council. If not I will pursue action in the Courts as the documents quoted above and below clearly state is my right. Footnotes/Supporting Evidence: (1) NSW EPA “Dealing with barking dogs” p.4 “Dogs sometimes bark when they are …under exercised or not exercised at all; untrained; lonely; sick; hungry, thirsty or generally neglected ….. kept in circumstances that are unsuitable for that particular breed”. Section 268 of POEO Act Under the POEO Act (see below) offensive noise is defined as noise: a) that by reason of its level, nature, character or quality, or the time at which it is made, or any other circumstances: i) is harmful to (or likely to be harmful to) a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted, or ii)interferes unreasonably with (or is likely to interfere with) the comfort or repose of a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted, or b) that is of a level, nature, character or quality prescribed by the regulations or that is made at a time, or in other circumstances, prescribed by the regulations.” “If the court is satisfied that the dog is causing an offensive noise, or that the noise is likely to recur, it may order the owner to stop the noise within a specified time or prevent a recurrence. If the person fails to comply with the order, they could be prosecuted and be liable for a maximum penalty of $3,300.” (Refer to Seeking noise abatement orders at www.epa.nsw.gov/au). Under Sections 95 - 100 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act, 1997 (POEO Act), “a council officer can serve a prevention notice on the owner of a noisy dog.” (P 8, EPA Brochure). EPA.nsw.gov.au/your-environment/noise Companion Animals Act 1998, No 87, Part 5, Division 1A (32a) (This states that pets are deemed a nuisance if they make persistent or excessive noise.) My recordings and noise-disturbance diaries clearly show this to be the case. From: NSW EPA “Dealing with Barking Dogs” “The causes of barking listed above should not be part of a dog’s life, As well as indicating a possibly distressed animal, chronic excessive baking can disturb people living nearby”. (p3) “A well cared for dog will generally not bark unreasonably and disturb neighbours….. Dogs need regular and adequate exercise according to their breed and size”. (p4) “If mediation is unsuccessful and the noise problem persists, contact your local council. They have statutory powers to deal with barking dogs. Under the Companion Animals Act 1998, a council officer can issue a nuisance order to the owner declaring the dog a nuisance if it barks or makes another noise that keeps occurring or continues to such a degree that is unreasonably disturbs neighbours” (p6). “If the owner does not comply with the order, the offender is liable for a fine of up to $880 for the first offence and $1650 for the second and each subsequent offence” (p7) “Under Sections 95 - 100 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act, 1997 (POEO Act), a council officer can serve a prevention notice on the owner of a noisy dog.” (P 8) “The POEO Act allows local council officers to issue on the spot fines of $750 to individuals who breach a notice”. (p9) “If proceedings are taken to a local court, and the offender is prosecuted, they may be liable for a maximum penalty of $250,000 and $60,000 for each day the offence continues”.

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