Dog or cat complaints

Barking Dogs

All dogs make noise on occasion. However, if you are concerned about the level of noise a dog is creating, the first step towards resolving the issue is to speak with the owner in a non-threatening manner and try to reach a compromise.

Often the dog owner is unaware that their dog is causing a nuisance as they may not be at their property when the barking occurs.

We have provided a template of a letter, that you can print and give to your neighbour as a first step to resolve the issue.

Barking Dog letter for neighbour(PDF, 102KB)

Complaint process

If you have attempted to resolve the issue with your neighbour, and the situation has not improved, then you can notify us.

Report a Barking Dog issue

What happens if I make a complaint?

If a complaint about a noisy dog is received, the City of Unley may observe the dog to assess whether it is creating a noise that 'persistently occurs to such an extent that it unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of others' (Section 45A, Part 5 of the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995).

When the nature of the complaint has been substantiated the dog owner will be sent a notice to rectify within 7 to 21 days, however most complaints about noisy dogs are handled informally and through mediation. This way all parties are given the opportunity to work towards a resolution before any legal action is taken.

What happens if the complaint cannot be resolved informally?

If the City of Unley is unable to resolve the complaint informally they will commence a formal investigation of the situation that may include speaking with other neighbours who may be affected by the noise of the dog.

The investigation will include providing the person who made the complaint, the dog owner and surrounding neighbors with Diary Sheets to record the extent and occasions that the dog causes a nuisance. In addition, the person must be prepared to attend Court if necessary to give evidence in order for the Council to proceed when all other measures have been exhausted.

If the information recorded in the Diary Sheets substantiates the claim that the dog is unreasonably interfering with the peace, comfort or convenience of others the Rangers may issue the dog owner with an expiation notice for the alleged offence.

Control (Barking Dog) Orders

If the problem is not resolved the City of Unley may consider issuing a letter informing the owner of Council's intention to issue a Control Order in accordance with the provisions of the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995.

If the Order is implemented and subsequently contravened, the City of Unley can take steps to give effect to the Order. This will most likely lead to prosecution in a Court of Summary Jurisdiction at which the person who made the complaint will be required to attend.

Dog owners have the right to appeal the intention to issue an Order.


The Council can instigate an immediate prosecution against a dog owner who allows their dog to create a persistent noise nuisance.

If a person is found guilty the Court has the ability to:

  • Issue a fine
  • Impose strict controls on the owner of the dog
  • Remove the dog temporarily or permanently.

Civil Action

Any person can institute Civil Proceedings against a dog owner in a Court, however, this course of action can only be handled by the complainant and cannot be handled by the City of Unley.

Complaints and Grievance procedures

If you believe that the City of Unley has not handled the matter in accordance with its obligations under the Dog and Cat Management Act please contact us. In the first instance we will seek to resolve any problems.

Owners may request a formal review of decision (as provided for under Section 270 of the Local Government Act 1999) where a person not directly involved in handling the issue will conduct a review.

Owners retain the right at any time refer the matter to the State Ombudsman's Office for an investigation.


Dog Attacks

As a responsible dog owner there are many steps you can take to prevent your dog attacking.

If a dog attack does occur, you should seek medical or veterinary treatment as required and, when safe to do so, report the incident to the City of Unley

How to report a dog attack

When safe to do so, please report the dog attack to the City of Unley on (08) 8372 5111.

Please seek medical or veterinary treatment as required.

A dog's owner, or the person who has care and control of the dog, is responsible for its actions and behaviour. It is an offence for a dog to attack, harass or chase:

  • A person

  • Another animal

  • A bird owned by a person.

What do I need to report an attack?

What do I need to report an attack?

We will investigate the incident as soon as practicable. To assist the investigating officer, please keep your own notes detailing:

  • The date, time and exact location of the attack

  • A description of the offending dog - identification or registration disc / breed / colour / sex / markings / collar

  • A description of the owner - identification / name / address / contact phone number / male or female / age / hair colour

  • If a car was involved and the offender drove away with the dog - car registration number / make / model / colour

  • A description and photographs of any injuries and location on your body or your pet's body.

You should also keep copies of any medical certificates/vet or doctor bills as evidence.

What happens when a dog attack is reported?

When a dog attack is reported we:

  • Will take a statement or affidavit from you

  • May take photos of any injuries to yourself, or your animals or birds

  • Contact the dog's owner to understand their perspective of the incident

  • Seek witness statements and other evidence

  • Assess the circumstances and evidence

  • Make a decision for action

  • Issue legal notices as required

  • Inform the parties of the outcome.

Depending on the severity of the attack, Council may:

  • Issue a warning

  • Impose a control order (Nuisance Order, Dangerous Dog Order, Menacing Dog Order, or Destruction Order) .

  • Impose an expiation of $315

  • Take court action in more serious cases.

The maximum penalty for a dog attack is $2,500.

For any further information please contact us on (08) 8372 5111.

Preventing dog bites

Dogs bite for many reasons. The most common reasons are fear, pain or confusion when mixing with people and other dogs. Ignoring signs of aggression can result in serious injury to you, a member of your family or others.  You can discourage biting by:

  • Avoiding situations that may cause your dog to become nervous or anxious

  • Training your dog - obedience classes help you learn about your dog, its body language and how you can communicate with it

  • Socialising your dog from an early age so that it learns how to mix with other dogs and other people in public

  • Asking your vet for advice if your dog shows any signs of aggression towards people.


Nuisance Cats

Cats can be very efficient hunters of birds and other small wildlife and if not confined to their property may also be the source of frustration to neighbors. Cats wandering into neighboring properties can cause issues such as fighting with other cats or killing wildlife.
Whilst it is more difficult to confine a cat than a dog, there are a number of products and measures that a cat owner can take to properly confine their cat (such as cat runs or enclosures, or simply keeping the cat inside).  


What do I do If I have received a complaint about my cat?

If your cat is not adequately confined to your property then it is likely that it will wander onto neighbouring properties.  This can sometimes cause a number of issues for your neighbours. As the owner of a cat, it is your responsibility to ensure that your cat does not cause a nuisance.
In extreme cases Council can take formal action against a cat owner if it is proven that the cat is causing a nuisance.
The definition of a nuisance is set out in the Local Nuisance and Litter Control Act 2016, and is defined as any adverse effect on an amenity value of an area that is caused by an animal that unreasonably interferes with, or is likely to interfere unreasonably with, the enjoyment of the area by persons occupying a place within, or lawfully resorting to the area.
It is important to remember that in a lot of cases your neighbour may feel that they have been putting up with the nuisance for a period of time before they approached you. 
Council acknowledges that these matters can be very emotive and the source of disputes.

If you are unable to resolve the issue with your neighbour please contact the Council for advice on your rights and legal responsibilities.

How do I make a complaint about a nuisance cat?

Council acknowledges that cats can cause a nuisance to residents by doing things such as fighting, harassing or attacking other animals. These issues can be annoying and can interfere with your enjoyment of your property.

If your neighbour’s cat is becoming a nuisance, we suggest printing out the below letter and giving to your neighbour as a first point of contact. The letter also provides some simple tips for your neighbour to reduce incidents of nuisance.

Nuisance Cats - letter for neighbour(PDF, 129KB)  

It is important to remember that in many cases, even though the nuisance may have been occurring for a while, the owner of the cat may not be aware of the issue. With this in mind, Council encourages you to seek an amicable resolution.

If you are unable to resolve the issue with your neighbour please contact the Council for advice. Council also has powers under the Local Nuisance and Litter Control Act 2016 to investigate a nuisance being caused by a pet cat to determine if they are at a level that would constitute a breach of the Act.

Report a cat issue

Investigations into reports of a pet cat causing a nuisance will be allocated to a General Inspector. You will be provided with a Cat Nuisance Diary and you will be required to provide evidence documenting the type and extent of the nuisance, including how this is unreasonably interfering with your enjoyment of the area.

Council acknowledges that investigations into nuisance cats can be quite time consuming for all involved. However, the cat owner has the right to appeal any formal action taken by Council to the South Australian Civil Administrative Tribunal (SACAT). Therefore Council must ensure that there is sufficient evidence to justify any action taken should an appeal be lodged with SACAT.

Should you require any further information please contact Council’s Customer Experience Centre on (08) 8372 5111.

Stray or feral cat entering your property

What is the difference between a stray and a feral cat?

  • Stray cats have at some stage been a pet. These cats are more likely to be handled and are generally more likely to seek human interaction. Stray cats may currently be pet cats that are just wandering from their property or for some reason have been separated from their family (they may have been lost or abandoned) and are now having to fend for themselves.

  • Feral cats are cats that have never been domesticated and have always had to fend for themselves, normally by killing wildlife and scavenging for food. True feral cats are wild animals and will normally not want any interaction with humans.

If you believe that a cat has taken up residence on your property the Council recommends that you do the following:

  • Speak to your neighbours to determine if the cat belongs to someone.

  • If you cannot identify where the cat is from then you may wish to catch the cat in a humane cat trap/cage for the purpose of taking the cat (within 12 hours of capture) to either the RSPCA, the Animal Welfare League or a veterinary clinic.

It is important to remember that it is illegal to trap an identified cat. If you trap a cat that either has identification or you know who owns the cat, then you must release the cat immediately. Council does have a limited number of cat cages that can be hired out to residents for this purpose.

Please note that as the AWL is currently at its highest capacity ever for cats and kittens. This service is currently suspended until further notice as the AWL is not accepting cats or kitten strays or surrenders either direct from the Council or from members of the community.

 Please refer to the attached information regarding identifying stray cats and what to do if you find one(PDF, 435KB) .

 The Animal Welfare League and RSPCA will continue to receive sick or injured animals during this time.

Council may provide additional assistance to people that are elderly or disabled and are unable to trap and transport the cats themselves. For further information on this service please contact Council on (08) 8372 5111.