Dogs are one of the most common domestic pets in New Zealand. Dogs provide companionship, are used to assist people with disabilities and assist law enforcement apprehending people. A dog is a very special animal, and rightfully so, there is a specific Act, the Dog Control Act 1996, (“the Act”) which is in place to empower local authorities to promote responsible dog ownership and the welfare of dogs.
The major change that is found within the Act, which was not evident in the repealed Dog Control and Hydatids Act 1982, is that there was no reference to the care, feeding or exercise of dogs. Section 5 of the Act lists the obligations of dog owners which are:
- To ensure that the dog is registered in accordance with this Act, and that all relevant territorial authorities are promptly notified of any change of address or ownership of the dog.
- To ensure that the dog is kept under control at all times.
- To ensure that the dog receives proper care and attention and is supplied with proper and sufficient food, water, and shelter.
- To ensure that the dog receives adequate exercise.
- To take all reasonable steps to ensure that the dog does not cause a nuisance to any other person, whether by persistent and loud barking or howling or by any other means.
- To take all reasonable steps to ensure that the dog does not injure, endanger, intimidate, or otherwise cause distress to any person.
- To take all reasonable steps to ensure that the dog does not injure, endanger, or cause distress to any stock, poultry, domestic animal, or protected wildlife.
- To take all reasonable steps to ensure that the dog does not damage or endanger any property belonging to any other person.
- To comply with the requirements of this Act and of all regulations and bylaws made under this Act.
Further details and obligations can be found at section 52-60 of the Act.
Dogs are required to be registered on the dog register, which is held at the local authority. Registration fees vary between local authorities. If you fail to register your dog, at section 42 of the Act, it is found to be an offense which could amount to a fine of up to $3,000.
Section 25 of the Act explains that a local authority will disqualify a person from being an owner of a dog if that person commits three or more unrelated infringement offences within a 24 month period or is convicted of an offence under this Act or other Acts such as the Animal Welfare Act 1999, the Conservation Act 1987, or the National Parks Act 1980. However, if the local authority is satisfied that the circumstances of the offence are not justified by disqualification, the local authority can classify the person as a probationary owner instead. A probationary owner, at council’s direction, will undertake dog education programs and/or dog obedience courses. Disqualification can last up to five years.
As this is just a brief overview of the Act, it is recommended reading the Act in its entirety or contacting your local authority to provide further information if required.