In the City of Victoria and the Township of Esquimalt the Animal Control Bylaw regulates noise caused by dogs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It governs public places, private property and any type of vehicle.
It is expected that dogs will bark given the regular comings and goings of a neighbourhood. However, the owner of a dog must not allow the dog to bark, howl or cry in any of the following manners:
(a) continuously for ten minutes or more without significant periods of rest
(b) sporadically for a cumulative total of 15 or more minutes within 1 hour, or
(c) otherwise in such a manner as to cause a nuisance.
It is easy for Officers to pinpoint the exact moment when noise becomes excessive as the Bylaw is very specific. Each circumstance has its own unique factors and Officers will take them into account before deciding upon what action to take. The fine amount for this violation is $150.00/day (Victoria) and $100.00/day (Esquimalt).
In the District of Oak Bay the Animal Bylaw also regulates noise created by dogs 24/7/365. The regulation governs public places, private property and any type of vehicle.
It is expected that dogs will bark given the regular comings and goings of a neighbourhood. However, if the barking is excessive it may violate provisions of the Bylaw.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when barking becomes excessive as the Bylaw is subjective in nature. Each circumstance has its own unique factors, but usually, excessive barking is: barking that is frequent and/or persistent and disturbing to the neighbourhood.
The bylaw states, "No person shall keep or harbour any habitually noisy dog within the Municipality." The fine amount for this violation is: $50.00/day (Oak Bay).
NO TOLERANCE FOR NIGHT TIME BARKING (10pm to 7am of the next day)
Regardless of the jurisdiction there is no justifiable legal reason for a dog to bark at night unless the cause for the barking is truly unexpected. Examples: your neighbour's house was on fire, or the police chased a "bad guy" through your backyard. Raccoons, sirens, the moon, people walking by your house shouting, etc., are not unexpected occurrences and do not provide a justifiable reason for a dog to bark between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am of the next day (8:00 am Saturdays, 9:00 am Sundays & Statutory Holidays).
Running a lawnmower for 5 to 10 seconds at 02:30 a.m. is unquestionably objectionable noise and the violator responsible should expect to receive a ticket. The same applies for a person who leaves their dog outside at night and it barks. If you must let your dog out in the middle of the night be sure to supervise it closely to prevent barking or to immediately return it indoors if it does.
THE FIRST COMPLAINT
If you are disturbed by a barking dog and decide to call Animal Control you must provide the following information.
1. Your NAME, ADDRESS and PHONE NUMBER. Anonymous complaints are not investigated.
The complainant's identity is not provided to the dog owner. You are always identified as "the complainant".
We purposely do not use terms such as "he" or "she" when referring to you. Your identity will not be revealed to the dog owner unless the matter needs to be resolved in court and you agree to be a witness.
2. The ADDRESS of the barking dog. We do not search neighbourhoods to locate the barking dog.
3. You must also provide a BRIEF ACCOUNT or HISTORY of recent barking disturbances.
Animal Control Officers do not initially know how valid your complaint may be. We likely do not
live on your street, nor are we parked outside in our vehicles listening to what is going on 24 hours a day.
An Officer will attend at the location of the alleged barking dog and speak with occupants to:
(a) identify the dog's owner and determine the likelihood of the complaint
(b) inform the dog owner of Bylaw regulations pertaining to barking
(c) identify barking motivations and suggest possible remedies
(d) inform the dog owner the complainant will be counseled to keep a Barking Log if they are further disturbed
(e) ensure the dog is currently licensed
The Officer will then telephone you and advise you of the outcome of the discussions with the dog owner.
It is our experience that most dog owners are concerned for their neighbours and do not want their dogs to be a disturbance to a neighbourhood. Some owners have no idea their dog was creating a disturbance and sincerely regret any inconvenience they may have caused and take immediate action to lessen or stop the barking.
SUBSEQUENT COMPLAINTS = BARKING LOGS
80 to 90% of barking complaints are resolved by a single face to face meeting with the dog owner.
However, if the dog continues to bark and causes you further disturbances you must produce a written log of the barking episodes to give an Officer the legal means to investigate the matter further.
Officers will not revisit any barking complaint unless the complainant submits a Barking Log.
BARKING LOGS ARE MANDATORY
HOW TO KEEP A BARKING LOG
It is expected and required that the complainant keep detailed, accurate and factual notes of the barking/noise.
The following types of information should be recorded every day:
1. DATE ( year / month / day )
2. EXACT TIMES when barking started (eg. 4:17 am, 9:22 am, 9:25 am, 7:19 pm, 10:56 pm)
3. DURATIONS of barking (eg. 42 seconds - 09 seconds - 1 minute & 13 seconds)
4. How did the barking disturb you?
5. Note whether or not the dog was visible to you each time when it barked?
6. When you can observe the dog, document whatever appears to be motivation to bark
7. If you go out, document when you leave and when you return or there will appear to be long periods of time when the dog is not barking
8. Occasionally document where the dog is when it is barking (eg. by backdoor, at gate, middle of yard)
9. Barking Logs should be sent to us on a DAILY BASIS
- Daily Logs allow us a timely (better) understanding of what is occurring; and provides us with a greater opportunity to resolve subsequent complaints.
Email Barking Logs to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Barking Logs can also be faxed or dropped off at our office.
- If you can't send in your Barking Log on a daily basis, it must be sent in at least once a week. Logs older than 7 days become stale and have little value - they will not be accepted. If necessary, call to arrange for an Officer to pick up the Log at your residence (we can pick it up from your mailbox if you leave it there).
Complainants (witnesses) are forewarned that their personal integrity and diligence are very important to the successful resolution of a barking complaint. Poor record keeping, general statements (eg. "dog barked all day 9am - 5pm"), exaggeration, fabrication, lack of tolerance for neighbours are all reasons for an Officer to conclude an investigation. Files closed for any of these reasons will not be reactivated for 12 months.
An Officer Will Review all Barking Logs
- IF THERE IS INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE: the complainant will be advised the recorded disturbances did not exceed tolerance levels. The file will be closed if additional logs are not received in the next 7 days.
- IF IT IS APPARENT THAT A VIOLATION HAS OCCURRED an Officer will revisit the dog owner with the Barking Log in hand; the complainant's identity will be protected.
The Officer will:
- review the log with the owner and inform the owner a violation has occurred
- issue a Warning Notice and advise the owner further disturbances may result in fines
- make suggestions and offer possible solutions so that penalties can be avoided
At this point very few dog owners continue to allow their dog to cause a disturbance.
- IF THE COMPLAINANT IS FURTHER DISTURBED the complainant must complete additional Barking Logs in keeping with the same standards as the first logs. If the additional logs confirm more violation(s) have occurred Officers will conduct a thorough investigation.
The Officer will:
- canvass neighbours near to the source of the barking to identify other persons who may be able to corroborate general or specific allegations
- randomly monitor the location where the dog is kept and when violations occur issue fines based on their own observations
- consider using sound recording devices to gather evidence
In those circumstances where the initial efforts of the Animal Control Officer has done little or nothing to restore the peace and quiet of a neighbourhood, a ticket can be issued to the dog's owner for each day the barking, howling, or crying from the dog violates the Bylaw.
The Animal Control Officer does not need to witness (see or hear) a violation. They can issue a ticket (on reasonable and probable grounds) when there is credible documented evidence by witnesses who are willing to go to court and provide testimony.
At this stage, tickets are issued because the dog owner's actions to remedy the problem have been insufficient or non-existent.
In some cases tickets do not bring about any change and may provoke the dog owner to be more uncooperative and more unreasonable and can result in even more disturbances. If this occurs, it can be argued the dog owner is keeping a "habitually noisy dog". In some cases (with approval from the Municipality) an Officer could seek an Injunction from a Provincial Court to compel the dog owner to no longer keep the dog within the Municipal boundaries.
In lieu of an Injunction the owner could surrender the dog to Animal Control where it would be adopted out to a more suitable and responsible person or family.