In April 1996 the law about cats and dogs changed. These laws are set out in the Domestic (Feral and Nuisance) Animals Act 1994. It gives local Councils powers to control dogs and cats living within their boundaries. The law was changed to look more closely at the dangerous dog problem as well as address issues about cats. Until the law was changed cats weren’t considered companion animals and had few rights. The new law promotes animal welfare, responsible pet ownership and protects the environment and humans from nuisance dogs and cats.
If you own a dog, you must:
• register each dog (over 3 months) you own,
• keep your dog under control when walking it
• keep your dog confined to your property at other times
• make sure your dog doesn’t bark persistently
• stop your dog straying onto another person’s property if the person objects
• the dog must wear its council identification tag when outside your property. Most councils require the dog to wear a tag with and the name, address and phone number of the owner.
If you keep a dog or if you are taking care of someone else’s pets then you are the owner under the law and are responsible for that animal (including fines and any damage done by the dog). Please remember if your dog is hit by a car you are responsible for the damage to that car. The only exception to this is if the dog is hit while it is on a leash.
THE LAW FOR OTHER PEOPLE
Other people can object to:
• barking dogs,
• dogs creating a health risk,
• dogs being repeatedly on their property without their permission.
• dogs wandering outside their owner’s premises,
• dogs being off-leash in an on-leash area,
• dogs rushing at or chasing a person or animal,
• dogs attacking or biting a person or animal.
THE LAW IN YOUR MUNICIPALITY
Most of the law is the same throughout Victoria. However certain councils make their own laws, such as whether dogs must be on a leash. If a Council requires your dog to be on a leash at all times when outside your property they will also have areas, such as parks and reserves, where you are allowed to walk your dog off-leash. Contact your Council for details. These areas change regularly so keep up to date. Beach areas tend to vary from summer to winter.
Most Councils have made a local law about the number of dogs that may be kept on premises in Council areas. Commonly that number is limited to two dogs over six months of age (and 6 pups) and an owner would need a permit to have any more.
Most Councils require you to clean up and dispose of the faeces deposited by your dog in public places. Some Councils require you to carry a pooper-scooper or something to pick up faeces whenever you take your dog off your property. You can be fined if you are found not carrying a container.
Most offences are dealt with by “on-the-spot” fines, issued by a Council officer. The fines range from $50 – $200 (at Nov 1997).
If the offence is more serious or you keep committing the same offence, you may be prosecuted in the Magistrates Court . The fines are higher ($100 – $1000) and the magistrate could order you to pay court costs and damages.
A person who has suffered some injury or loss because of your animal’s behaviour can also sue you separately for damages.
For instance, if your unregistered dog is caught outside your property and taken to the pound, you may be fined for having an unregistered dog ($200, maximum for a first offence is $500), being off your property unsupervised ($50 – $500 depending on time of day and number of offences), for not having your dog secured to your property ($50 – $500), not being leashed ($100-$400) and for the dog not wearing an identification marker outside your property ($50, maximum first offence $100). Also you will have to pay the pound fees to get it back from the council. They may not fine you for each offence as they over-lap but they can.
Abandoning your dog carries a very heavy penalty.
Ignoring the law is costly and time consuming.
When obtaining a dog for the first time you should contact your local Council to discover what restrictions and additional local laws apply. Please see our restricted breed leaflet for more information on Restricted Dog Breeds in Victoria.