The legal issue concerning an individual’s rights against neighbour’s dogs, who bark excessively, is one that has plagued an untold number of individuals, with no clear legal precedent to follow.
This especially applies to the Province of Gauteng and the City of Johannesburg, whereby we do not benefit by the same animal by-laws as the City of Cape Town. The City of Cape Town makes provision that a person shall not keep any dog which barks for more than six minutes in any hour or three minutes in any half hour, and can receive a fine for contravening this by-law.
The general legal principal is that a man is allowed to have free use and enjoyment of his property, provided that in doing so, he does not infringe on the rights of his neighbour. In respect of the law of nuisance, there are no specific laws or statues, which provide precedent or clarity.
The principles that have been adopted by many of our Court Judges, is the view that people living in close proximity are expected to tolerate a measure of nuisance. It is only when it becomes completely unreasonable, then the Courts will intervene and assist a complaining neighbours. However, it is important to note that what is reasonable to one may not be reasonable to another, again this is a bit of a grey area in our law. Our courts will only provide a remedy to an aggrieved neighbour's complaint about noise, provided it is satisfied about what type of noise is being complained of, the degree of its persistence, the locality involved and the times when the noise is heard.
The most cost effective way to deal with the problem, would be to approach a neighbour directly and tactfully tell them of the problem and try to resolve the matter amicably, litigation should always be the last resort. Should litigation be an individual’s final option, it would be helpful to begin by making a written complaint to your Local Authority. Many Municipality’s make provision for a noise control department whose officials take steps to help you, if they find that a problem does exists. In addition, it would not hurt to peruse the by-laws applicable within your municipal area. In the City of Johannesburg, the barking of dogs is governed by Gauteng Noise Control by-laws, and city regulations governing cats and dogs. The by-laws made provision for the delivery of a warning letter to pet owners. In terms of the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality by-laws relating to dogs and cats, it states the following:
“Prohibitions relating to the keeping of dogs”
No person may keep a dog – which barks, whimpers or howls to such an extent that it, or has another habit which, causes a disturbance or nuisance to inhabitants of the neighbourhood.