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Responsibilities of Dog Owners

Dogs are beloved pets, providing their owners with companionship, security and assistance. However, being a dog owner also comes with legal responsibilities that must be followed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of both the pet and the public. This article outlines the legal requirements and responsibilities of dog owners in NSW.

Registration of Dogs

Under Section 9 of the Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW), dog owners in NSW must register their pets with local councils from the age of six months. Registration helps to ensure that dogs are up to date with their vaccinations and enables council officers to identify and return lost or wandering dogs to their owners. Failure to register a dog can result in a fine of up to $330, or $5,500.00 if dealt with by the Courts. 

Control of Dogs 

One of the responsibilities of dog owners is to keep their pets under control at all times, particularly in public places, this is outlined in section 13 of the Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW).  This means that dogs must be on a leash when in public places, except in designated off-leash areas.

Owners must also ensure that their dogs do not cause a nuisance to other people, such as barking excessively or causing damage to property. In the event that a dog causes a disturbance, the local council has the authority to issue a nuisance dog order to the animal’s owner, directing them to cease or prevent the disruptive behaviour from recurring.

If an owner wishes to challenge a nuisance dog order, they must do so within 7 days of receiving notice. Failure to contest the order within this time frame will permit the council to proceed with issuing the directive.

Liability for Dog Attacks

A person who is in charge of a dog and causes it to inflict severe physical harm on another individual can be charged with a crime and face a prison sentence of up to 10 years, pursuant to section 35A of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).  Similarly, a person who causes a dog to inflict less serious physical harm on a person can be charged with a crime and may face up to 5 years imprisonment.

If found guilty, the court may issue a control order or a destruction order for the dog. A control order requires the owner to take steps to prevent or minimise the chances of the dog causing harm, such as through desexing or training. A destruction order means that the dog must be put down.

The court can only issue a destruction order if it determines that a control order would be inadequate in protecting the public from the animal.

Other Responsibilities of Dog Owners

Welfare of Dogs

The Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW) also sets out the welfare requirements of dogs, including the need to provide them with adequate food, water, shelter, and exercise. Dog owners must ensure that their pets are not subjected to cruelty, neglect or abuse. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in fines and legal action.

Restrictions on Certain Dog Breeds

NSW has laws that prohibit ownership of certain breeds of dogs, such as pit bulls, unless they have been approved by the relevant authorities. This is due to the higher risk of aggression and attacks associated with these breeds.

Assistance Dogs

Individuals with disabilities are entitled to have an assistance animal accompany them in any public location or on public transportation. It is prohibited to refuse entry to a person on account of their assistance animal, pursuant to the Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW).

How can BSM Help?

If you have been charged with an animal related offence, it is important to seek legal advice. The experienced criminal lawyers at Brander Smith McKnight can help you build a strong defence.  We can also advise you on your rights if you have been the subject of a dog attack. 

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