Dog Right’s vs Human Right’s? or Dogs Rule in Eurobodalla

The Beagle Editor, For the last six months I have been engaged in a battle with my neighbours (two lots of them actually) and now with the Eurobodalla Shire Council as well, trying to defend my right as a resident (and a rate-paying one at that) to a peaceful life here in Moruya Heads. So far I am losing. Oh, and for the record, I am a human. You’d think that might count for something, but you’d be wrong. No, in spite of the fact that I pay rates and land tax, and have been doing so for 22 years, it seems that the dogs next door and over the back fence have more rights than me. They can bark until their little hearts’ content, alone, uncared for and bored stiff all day while their owners are at work. And there is not a damned thing I can do about it. If the “nuisance noise” was being caused by humans, the police could intervene; chainsaws, trumpets, lawnmowers, rap music… all officially approved reasons to complain. But dogs? Nope. Not our problem. Call the council! So I did. I called, I emailed, I petitioned, I went to council in person, I filled in forms, I made recordings, I filled in noise diaries. Six months later have the dog owners done anything at all? Nope. Have the council taken any enforceable action such as issuing fines? Nope. The owners have been asked nicely to try and keep the dogs quiet? I already did that. What about the law you ask? A good point. I did my research after speaking politely (I swear) to my neighbours, or attempting to, on a number of occasions. When this proved not only fruitless but downright scary, I contacted the council. I did this reluctantly not because I lacked faith in the council, but because I thought that decent people should be able to sort out their differences civilly. Silly me. To compound my foolishness I told my neighbours that I had informed the council of the “excessive” barking and that if they didn’t sort their dogs out, the council would (in those days I had faith). Then the harassment really began. No, not me harassing them or their dogs (though I’m sure they believe that my complaints are harassment) but them bullying, not just me, but my friends, neighbours and the elderly lady who lives in the flats at the back of our cul-de-sac. I had property removed from my premises, and I had “visitors” one night, two drunken louts (who are mates with my next door nemesis) who, beers and cigarettes in hand, swaggered up to my verandah and started telling me how they could do what they wanted and there was nothing I could do about it. Seems they were right. So what did I learn about my rights to a peaceful existence in NSW? Plenty thanks to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Their publication “Dealing with Barking Dogs” (available online) states that councils have “statutory powers to deal with barking dogs” and that “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 it unreasonably disturbs neighbours”. Note the “can” not the “should”. The problem of course is how one defines what is an unreasonable level of noise. Obviously my definition differs from that of the dog owners, though when I played the recordings of the barking through a speaker out of my kitchen window, they did get quite pissed off. Unreasonable of me really. Then there is the issue of gathering evidence. As suggested by the council, I filled in a “nuisance noise diary” for more than a month. I substantiated this with video recordings, hours and hours of barking, whining and howling, during the day and on occasion at night. The people in the flats at the back also wrote to the council, confirming the problem. Was anything done to stop the barking? No. I am not by nature the sort of person who enjoys getting up peoples’ noses… but there comes a time when one has to make a stand. I started calling the ranger’s office every time the dogs barked for more than 10 minutes. Pretty much every day. I could hear the groan in the voice of the lady who answered the phone when I gave my name and address. Not you again!! I’m sure they believed I was a nutter, but I persevered. Rangers came to investigate first-hand. The dogs seemed to know when they were coming and remained silent. In fact on a couple of occasions they were totally absent. They’re smart the dogs down here. Finally I decided to attend a council meeting and make a “submission”. I was allowed five minutes to state my case. Then with approval (thank you council members) a little more. I wasn’t game to play the barking recordings though I had wanted to… It would have been interesting to see how much barking the council allowed before throwing me out. So today the head ranger (finally) came and visited me. The mayor it seems has decided that I am a potential embarrassment. Thank God the dog next door barked! Though not nearly as much as I had asked it to. I played the head ranger my videos, videos I had previously been told proved nothing. He seemed to take me seriously, finally. What took so long? This afternoon letters regarding nuisance barking were distributed by the rangers to residents in our cul-de-sac. They helpfully included the brochure “Responsibilities for Cat and Dog Owners” which “provides some information on why dogs bark and helpful hints on how dog owners can prevent excessive barking”. That should do the trick! Meanwhile I’ve decided to move. The stress caused by the barking, and even more so by the refusal of all concerned (including the council) to take any concrete action has worn me down. Dogs win. I leave my little piece of paradise - the house I’ve lovingly renovated, the garden I’ve raised from nothing - early next month. But I am going to keep fighting. And I beseech anyone who has suffered the same fate to do the same. We pay rates - and vote. Dogs don’t. Humans rule! Or do they? Keston Gordon

Who me? theses eyes melt hearts and I'm as quiet as a mouse


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