Barking law shuts up humans

27 November 2012 - 02:08 By QUINTON MTYALA
Dogs barking. File photo.
Dogs barking. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

The City of Cape Town says it has received fewer complaints about barking dogs since a controversial bylaw came into effect last year.

But dog trainers say the bylaw, which fines owners if their dogs bark for more than six minutes in an hour, is difficult, if not impossible, to police.

In Cape Town's most populous sub-region comprising Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain and Somerset West, the number of complaints about noisy dogs has fallen from 844 in 2011 to only 58 so far this year, with fines ranging from R200 to R2000.

Dog trainer Ansie Minnaar said it was difficult to prove that a pet was noisy "unless you have the whole neighbourhood signing a petition".

Another trainer, Claire Grobbelaar, said complaints from neighbours were usually enough to prompt dog owners to take action.

"People have been receiving notices [from the city council] but most have only been getting warnings about their barking dogs," said Grobbelaar.

She said barking became a problem only when dog owners failed to keep their animals stimulated.

They barked, she said, to "soothe themselves".

Table View dog trainer Vernon Fletcher said he did not know of anyone who had been fined.

"The city does not have the manpower to police barking dogs. To enforce this by-law is 99% impossible and the chance of getting fined is quite remote."

Another dog trainer, Bernice Jaffe, said vindictive neighbours sometimes complained to get revenge on dog owners.

"Some are even trying to provoke dogs, in the hope that people will complain about the noise," said Jaffe.

The man who steered the bylaw through the council, JP Smith, said officials had found that 80% of complaints about barking were "vexatious".

The bylaw placed the onus on complainants, he said.

The six-minute provision has deterred many complainants.

"As it turns out, most dogs don't bark beyond that threshold," said Smith.