Responsibilities of Dog Owners17 December 2023 in Criminal Law
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 that come with owning a dog in NSW.
Registration of Dogs
Under Section 9 of the Companion Animals Act 1998, 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
Dog owners in NSW are required under Section 13 of the Companion Animals Act to keep their pets under control at all times, particularly in public places. 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 or cat causes a disturbance, a local council has the authority to issue an 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
According to Section 35A of the Crimes Act 1900, 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. 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.
Welfare of Dogs
The Companion Animals Act 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
It is important to note that 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.
As per the Companion Animals Act, 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.
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 and protect your rights.