Legal and social responsibilities of owning a pet
Owning a pet has its rewards, but there are many legal and social responsibilities that you need to be aware of.
The law aims to protect animals from neglect and cruelty and to protect the community from animals becoming a nuisance or danger.
Please note that laws vary from state to state, so always check with your local vet or council.
If you don’t abide by legal requirements, such as microchipping, registration, and confinement of dogs to the property, you can be fined.
Check with your council to see if they have any local laws. For example, many councils have now introduced compulsory desexing.
Under animal cruelty legislation, if you mistreat or fail to properly care for your dog you can be prosecuted and face fines, jail or a ban on owning an animal.
All dogs three months of age and over must be registered with the local council.
Dogs being registered for the first time must be microchipped prior to registration.
Microchipping and registering pets greatly improves their chances of being returned to you if they become lost.
You are also responsible for your pet’s health. This includes providing food, water, exercise and shelter and visiting your vet for regular checkups.
If you aren’t going to breed from your dog, have him/her desexed.
Desexed dogs can be better behaved and less likely to roam. Desexing pets can also prevent them from getting certain types of cancer.
In general, dogs can safely be desexed from three months of age. Talk to your vet about the best age to desex your dog.
Legally, you are required to securely confine your dog to the property. This means your yard must have a closed gate and an escape-proof fence that your dog can not jump, get under or through.
Excessive barking is often a sign that something is ‘wrong’. The first step in solving the problem is to determine why your dog is barking (eg boredom, loneliness, attention, to alert you, or due to fear/ medical/physical reasons).
Depending on why your dog is barking, you may need to take him/ her on more frequent walks, alter the backyard environment or make it more interesting (eg provide activity toys, bones to chew), take your dog to obedience classes/training, or take him/her to the vet for a checkup.
Most councils require dog owners to remove and dispose of their dog’s poo when in public places. Some councils also require owners to carry an appropriate bag or scoop to remove dog poo, whenever you are walking your dog in a public place.
If you don’t comply with legal requirements, such as microchipping and registration, you can be fined.
Under animal cruelty legislation, if you mistreat or fail to properly care for your cat you can be prosecuted and face fines, jail or a ban on owning an animal.
All cats three months of age and over must be registered with the local council.
If being registered for the first time, cats must be microchipped prior to registration.
If your cat is found wandering off your property and is not identified, he/she can be seized and impounded. You may have to pay a fine when reclaiming your cat from the pound.
It’s a good idea to place a bell on the collar too, to alert any animal that your cat may try to stalk and catch.
You are also responsible for your cat’s health. This includes providing food, water, exercise and shelter and visiting your vet for regular checkups.
If you aren’t going to breed from your cat, have him/her desexed.
In general, cats can safely be desexed from three months of age. Desexing at a younger age can be less stressful for kittens than it would be for older cats, and they may recover more quickly.
Your vet can give you further guidance on desexing your kitten or cat.
Serious problems can occur if cats are allowed to roam outdoors, particularly at night. Roaming cats can get hit by cars, injured in fights, catch fatal diseases or end up lost.
Roaming cats can also kill native wildlife. Even well-fed cats will hunt, it is in their nature. Roaming cats can annoy neighbours too, by spraying, fighting, and digging in gardens.
Legally, you are not allowed to let your cat trespass on other people’s property.
If your cat wanders onto another person’s property more than once, it may be seized and impounded. A council may issue an order to stop your cat trespassing, and if you don’t comply you can be fined.
Depending on what type of pet you own, there are certain legal and social responsibilities that you need to adhere to.
Native animals, for example, are not allowed to be kept in some states. Other animals such as reptiles require a licence.
If you are unsure about any requirements or regulations relating to your particular pet, contact your local vet or council.