September 19 2016
Man’s best friend is also the right hand for many farmers, playing a vital role in the day-to-day running of a successful farm. However, not all farmers know that owning a working dog comes with legal obligations and responsibilities. If you don’t know what these are, you risk substantial fines and possibly a conviction. Talk to our rural lawyers if you have any queries.
How to avoid the expense of a ‘hot’ dog
To ensure your dogs don’t become hot property, you’re required to get all dogs over the age of three months registered with your local council. Dog registration is your responsibility and must be renewed by 31 July each year. While it may seem like extra paperwork, local councils use this information to update the National Dog Database, enabling them to monitor lost or dangerous dogs.
Since 1 July 2006, it has been a legal requirement to have dogs micro-chipped. However, working dogs are excluded from micro-chipping as they are specifically defined under the Dog Control Act 1996 as dogs used solely or principally for the purpose of herding or driving stock. Be aware that your working dogs must be registered and wear a collar with the council-provided disc or label.
Our rural lawyers stress that this exemption applies to working dogs as described above. You must have family pets or recreational hunting dogs micro-chipped. If you don’t register or micro-chip these dogs, you can be fined up to $300.
Beware of the dog!
As a stranger visiting a property, if you see this sign, you’re likely to heed the warning. Dogs are loyal animals, so as a dog owner, it’s easy to forget that your dog may not greet strangers in the same loving manner as they greet you, especially as many people keep dogs for extra security.
Unfortunately, dog attacks are becoming more frequent. They’re often big news in the media. So, The Dog Control Act was established to ensure you know your responsibilities and to control your dogs at all times.
It’s common to have people coming onto farms and rural properties: family, friends, posties, vets and contractors. You should always remember that while you know your obligations under The Dog Control Act, your dog doesn’t. If your dog attacks a person, another animal or protected wildlife, you may be fined up to $3,000 and your dog may be destroyed.
If your dog causes serious injury or death to a person, animal or to protected wildlife you may be imprisoned for up to three years or fined up to $20,000.
If your dog attacks a person or animal and no destruction order is made, your local council can classify your dog as dangerous. You’ll be required to keep the dog within a fenced area, have it neutered, muzzled and kept on a leash in public places.
The cost of a mistreated dog
While the subject of mistreated working dogs is unpleasant to most people, it is a reality. The law takes the subject most seriously. If someone abuses or neglects a dog, leading to that animal’s death, they can be banned from owning dogs in the future. In severe circumstances, the penalty can be a fine up to $100,000 and a prison sentence up to five years. If an individual receives multiple fines or is found guilty of a serious offence, councils may ban that person from owning a dog for up to five years. Councils also have the right to seize any dog from an owner if they consider the animal to be at risk or if that owner has been previously banned.
Looking after your dogs
Dogs are great companions and have a natural instinct to look after their owners. It’s important we remember to return the favour, not just with food, shelter and love, but with our legal obligations as well. This means proper registration, care and control. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to our rural lawyers for some sound advice.