Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I have animal welfare-related responsibilities, as the owner of a cat or dog, covered under other legislation?

    As a cat or dog owner, you have a responsibility to look after your cat or dog’s basic welfare needs, including:

    • Provide your cat or dog with an appropriate balanced diet and clean, cool water at all times
    • Ensure that your cat or dog has adequate shelter suitable for all weather conditions
    • Ensure that your cat or dog is well socialised, trained and exercised
    • Ensure your cat or dog’s good health with regular veterinary check ups, worming, tick and flea treatments
    • If you are not going to breed from your cat or dog, you are strongly encouraged to have it desexed (permanently sterilised) to prevent unwanted litters.
    • Make sure that your cat or dog is looked after when you go away. If you are leaving your cat or dog in a cattery or kennel, make sure that the cattery or kennel complies with the NSW Animal Welfare Code of Practice No 5 – Dogs and Cats in Animal Boarding Establishments.

    If you neglect your cat or dog’s basic welfare needs, you may be liable for fines and/or imprisonment under animal welfare and cruelty related legislation, including the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (General) Regulation 2006 and relevant animal welfare codes of practice. These are administered by the Department of Primary Industries and enforced by NSW Police, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) New South Wales inspectors and Animal Welfare League NSW inspectors.

  • Barking Dogs

    Complaints made to local councils about barking dogs are common. Your council will have an established procedure for investigating, and taking action against, an owner whose dog is allowed to bark excessively. Your council may require more than one complaint to progress an investigation. Your council may require you to keep a log of when, and for how long, the dog is barking.

    Talk to neighbours to see if they share your concerns. If they do, encourage them to write to the local council too. Having multiple complaints enables your local council to make a stronger case for action to be taken and ensures that it has the appropriate standard of evidence to prove a case in court, if required.

    If your local council identifies a serious or ongoing problem, it may issue a nuisance order requiring the owner to prevent the dog barking.

    You may also wish to consider taking independent legal action by seeking a noise abatement order under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 through your local court.

  • Collars

    Dogs

    In addition to being microchipped all dogs, except working dogs, have to wear a collar and tag showing the dog’s name and your address or telephone number when outside its own property.

    If you fail to comply with this requirement, you may be liable for a maximum penalty of $880 or $5,500 for a restricted dog, dangerous or menacing dog.

    Cats

    All cats, except cats being exhibited at a show or in transit to or from a show at which they will be exhibited, must have some form of identification when in a public place.

    Cats born before 1 July 1999 (when the Companion Animals Act 1998 came into force) must be identified with either a microchip or a collar and tag with the cat’s name and your address or telephone number on it.

    Cats born after 1 July 1999 (when the Companion Animals Act 1998 came into force) do not have to wear a collar and tag with your contact details on it, but must be microchipped and lifetime-registered (unless they are exempt from these requirements).

    If you fail to comply with this requirement, you may be liable for a maximum penalty of $880.

  • Considerations when buying a pet

    What should you consider when buying a pet?

    Saying yes to a pet means that you are accepting a duty of care for its lifetime welfare.

    Things that you need to consider when deciding what type of pet would best suit your environment and lifestyle include:

    Your home and property:

    • Is there adequate space?
    • Can the pet be securely confined?
    • Can you provide adequate shelter?
    • Can you set up separate areas for pets and young children (if applicable)?

    Your lifestyle:

    • How much time can you (and your family, if applicable) devote to a pet?
    • Will you have time to supervise young children with a pet (if applicable)?

    The costs which could include:

    • Purchase
    • Housing
    • Feeding
    • Microchipping and registration
    • Vet checks; vaccinations; and worming, tick and flea treatments
    • Desexing (permanent sterilisation)
    • Grooming
    • Training
    • Boarding

    Once you have considered these factors, you may have a greater understanding of the type of pet that would suit you and your family. Sometimes, the most responsible thing you can do is to decide not to have a pet until your circumstances change.

    If, however, you decide that a cat or dog would be the most suitable pet for you and your family, consider obtaining your cat or dog from a council pound, animal welfare organisation or animal rescue organisation. Many healthy cats and dogs are euthanased (put to sleep) each year because suitable homes cannot be found for them.

    If you are buying a cat or dog and you are buying from a breeder, make sure that s/he is a reputable breeder and that his/her establishment and practices fully comply with the Animal Welfare Code of Practice – Breeding dogs and cats. If you are buying a cat or dog from a pet shop, make sure that it is a reputable pet shop and that it fully complies with the Animal Welfare Code of Practice – Animals in pet shops.

    When you bring your cat or dog home, help it to gradually adjust to you and your family, its new surroundings and its new routine.

  • Desexing

    The NSW Government encourages pet owners to desex cats and dogs at an early age. This helps to ensure pets stay healthy, are well behaved and do not have unwanted litters. The Government continues to provide funding to support discounted registration fees for desexed animals.

    The discounted registration fee is available to owners who desex their cat before four (4) months of age. A discounted fee applies to dogs desexed before six (6) months of age.

    Vets can update the NSW Pet Registry when a pet is desexed. Vets can also update the Registry to indicate that a pet should not yet be desexed for medical reasons.

    If you cannot afford to have your cat or dog desexed, speak to your vet or an animal welfare organisation, as they may be able to help.

    Although you do not have to have your cat or dog desexed, unless it is a restricted, declared dangerous or menacing dog, there are benefits in doing so for you and your animal.

  • Lost and Found

    My cat or dog is missing – what do I need to do?

    If your cat or dog has been missing for more than 72 hours, you must notify your local council within 24 hours. If your dog is a restricted dog or a declared dangerous or menacing dog and it is missing, you must notify your local council within 24 hours of your first noticing that your dog has gone missing.

    Your local council will change the status of your cat or dog on the NSW Companion Animals Register to ‘missing’, which will lock the microchip record until your cat or dog is found or has returned home. This will prevent a person who is claiming to be your cat or dog’s owner, for example, where it has been stolen, from transferring ownership.

    It is important to confirm with your local council that your contact details are correct when you report your cat or dog as missing, so that you can be contacted when your cat or dog is found.

    You should consider contacting local vets and approved animal welfare organisations, such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Welfare League and the Cat Protection Society, to check if a cat or dog with your cat or dog’s microchip number or matching your cat or dog’s description has been found.

    My cat or dog has been found – what do I need to do?

    You must notify your local council within 72 hours of your cat or dog being found or returning home after being reported as missing. This enables your local council to unlock the microchip record and update the NSW Companion Animals Register.

    I have found a stray dog – what should I do?

    If you have found a dog that you believe to be a stray, you should first check to see it is wearing a collar and tag. If it is, use the contact details on the tag to contact the owner.

    If it is not wearing a collar and tag, you must by law, take the dog to a council pound, an approved animal welfare organisation or an approved premises (usually a veterinary practice). The dog can then be scanned for a microchip, the owner’s contact details obtained from the NSW Companion Animals Register and the owner contacted and re-united with their dog.

    While councils are not obliged to collect stray animals, many councils offer this as a complimentary service for their ratepayers. However, councils are obliged to accept animals that are seized by members of the public and are taken to the council’s holding facility/pound.

    I have found a stray cat – what should I do?

    Any person can lawfully seize a cat, owned or un-owned, whether in a private or public place, if that action is reasonable and necessary for the protection of any person or animal (other than vermin) from injury or death, providing that action meets the animal welfare requirements of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979.

    While councils are not obliged to collect stray animals, many councils offer this as a complimentary service for their ratepayers. However, councils are obliged to accept animals that are seized by members of the public and are taken to the council’s holding facility/pound.

  • Off-leash Areas

    Dogs benefit greatly from the chance to run freely. Under the Companion Animals Act 1998, each council must provide at least one off-leash area where dogs can be exercised off-leash during certain hours.

    You, or the person looking after your dog/s, should not be in control of more than 4 dogs at the same time and you, or the person looking after your dog/s, should be capable of controlling the dog/s at all times when in the off-leash area.

    Contact your local council to find out about off-leash areas in your local area.

  • Pets at home

    Responsible pet ownership

    The NSW Government is committed to promoting responsible pet ownership to ensure our state is the safest and most enjoyable in which to own a cat or dog.

    While the Government and local councils undertake educational and awareness activities, pet owners must take responsibility for their cat or dog to ensure animal and community welfare.


    Dogs

    You or the person in charge of the dog at the time, must take all reasonable precautions to prevent your dog from escaping from the property on which it is being kept.

    If you fail to comply with this requirement, you may be liable for a maximum penalty of $880 or $5,500 for a restricted dog, dangerous or menacing dog.

    Cats

    You do not have to keep your cat indoors. However, you are encouraged to keep your cat indoors at night, as there are benefits to both the cat and the community.

    Yowling and fighting is more of a problem at night. The noise is likely to be intrusive and may keep your neighbours awake. Keeping your cat indoors at night is recommended in the interests of both your cat’s safety and community harmony.

    Many kinds of native wildlife are more active or more vulnerable to hunting at night. There is also evidence that cats hunt more during the night. By keeping your cat indoors, you can help reduce the number of native birds and animals that are killed in your area.

    Kittens can quickly become accustomed to staying indoors at night. Authorised council officers can issue nuisance orders to cat owners in certain circumstances.

    Authorised council officers can issue nuisance orders to cat owners in certain circumstances.

    The Office of Local Government is supporting councils and cat owners to better manage cats through improved public education and targeted compliance action.  A comprehensive package of Good Neighbour resources was released by the Cat Protection Society of NSW, with the support of the NSW Government, councils and other stakeholders.

    The Good Neighbour Project is designed to support cat owners to provide the best feline welfare and wellbeing outcomes for their cats at the same time as minimising the impact of cat ownership on the local community.

    A range of other cat welfare material is also available on the website, including bilingual information in Simplified Chinese, Arabic, Hindi and Vietnamese.

    Key Resources:

  • Pets in public places

    Your dog must, unless it is exempt from this requirement, be under the effective control of a competent person at all times when out in public. This means that it must be on a leash and under the control of someone capable of restraining it. A small child, for example, may not be able to control a large dog. Under these circumstances, an adult capable of restraining the dog, should walk the dog.

    A dog is not considered to be under the effective control of a competent person if the person has more than 4 dogs under his or her control.

    If you fail to comply with this requirement, you, or if you are not present, the person in control of your dog, if s/he is aged 16 or over, may be liable for a maximum penalty of $1,100 or $11,000 in the case of a restricted dog, dangerous or menacing dog.

    This requirement does not apply to a dog:

    • in an off-leash area (but only if the total number of dogs of which its owner has control does not exceed 4) or
    • a dog engaged in droving, tending or working of stock or
    • a dog being exhibited for show purposes or
    • a dog participating in an obedience class, trial or exhibition or
    • a police dog or
    • a corrective services dog or
    • a dog secured in a cage or vehicle or tethered to a fixed object or structure.
    Dogs in outdoor dining areas

    A dog, except a restricted or declared dangerous or menacing dog, is allowed in the outdoor dining area of a cafe or restaurant with the cafe or restaurant owner’s consent. Certain restrictions apply:

    • The outdoor dining area must not be enclosed and must be accessible without the requirement to pass through an enclosed area
    • The dog must be on a leash at all times
    • The dog may be provided with drink, but not food
    • The dog must be on the ground at all times

    These restrictions do not apply in leash-free areas where:

    • The dog does not have to be on a leash
    • The dog may be given food, as well as drink, while it is on the ground (but not using any apparatus provided for the consumption of food by humans)
    • The dog may sit on a person’s lap (but may not sit on any table or chairs or make contact with other apparatus provided for the consumption of food by humans).
    Cleaning up after your dog

    If your dog defecates in a public place or on someone else’s property, you must remove the faeces immediately and dispose of them properly. Many councils provide bins for the removal of dog faeces in places where dogs are often exercised and you should look for bins in your area.

    If you fail to pick up after your dog, you or the person in charge of the dog at the time may be liable for a maximum penalty of $880.

  • Prohibited Areas

    Dogs

    All dogs, apart from police and corrective service dogs and genuine assistance dogs, are banned from:

    • within 10 metres of a children’s play area
    • within 10 metres of food preparation or consumption areas, except cafes or restaurants whose owners permit dogs (not restricted dogs or declared dangerous dogs) in their outdoor dining areas
    • recreation areas where dogs are prohibited
    • public bathing areas where dogs are prohibited
    • school grounds
    • child care centres
    • shopping centres where dogs are prohibited
    • wildlife protection areas.

    Cats

    Cats are banned from public areas where food is produced or consumed and from wildlife protection areas. There is considerable concern in the community about cats injuring or killing native wildlife.

    Although the Companion Animals Act 1998 does not require you to contain your cat on your premises, you should consider doing so for your cat’s own safety and for the protection of native wildlife.

    You can contain your cat on your premises by keeping it indoors or by building a cat enclosure on your premises.

  • Working dogs

    What is a working dog?

    The Companion Animals Act 1998 defines a working dog as a dog used primarily for the purpose of droving, tending, working or protecting stock, and includes a dog being trained as a working dog.

    The Companion Animals Act 1998 does not specify a working dog to be of a particular breed.

    Does my working dog have to be microchipped and registered?

    If your working dog is ordinarily kept in the Western Division of NSW that does not fall within a local government area or on land rated as farmland, it does not have to be microchipped or registered. However, you should consider having your working dog microchipped and registered for its protection. You will not have to pay to register your working dog.

    All other working dogs have to be microchipped and registered, however, no fee is payable to register a working dog.

    A working dog that has been declared as a nuisance dog, a restricted dog or a declared dangerous or menacing dog, must be microchipped and registered with your local council.

    In addition, any dog, including a working dog, that is taken into the custody of a council pound must be microchipped and registered before being returned to its owner. Where the dog is a working dog, there is no fee payable for registration.