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Legal Responsibilities

Your main legal responsibilities as a dog owner are set down in
  • the Dog Control Act 1996 and its amendments
  • city and district council dog control policy and bylaws.

The Dog Control Act 1996
As a dog owner you have to
  • register your dog with your local council before it is three months old (or when you get it)
  • renew the registration for your dog each year before 1 July
  • notify the council if you change your address, your dog dies or has a new owner
  • microchip your dog when it is registered for the first time or if it has been classified as dangerous or menacing
  • make sure your dog does not scare or injure any one or any other animal and is kept under control at all times
  • care for your dog – exercise it and provide sufficient food, water and shelter
    You must also take all reasonable steps to ensure that your dog does not
    • cause any nuisance to any other person for example by constantly barking, howling or roaming
    • injure, endanger, or cause distress to any stock, poultry, domestic animal or protected wildlife
    • damage or endanger any property belonging to any other person.

    The Dog Control Act prohibits the importation into New Zealand of American Pit Bull Terrier type dogs, and Dogo Argentino, Brazilian Fila, Japanese Tosa breeds.

    The Act also lays out the powers and responsibilities of city and district councils.

    City and district council policy and bylaws
    Councils can make policy and bylaws which could include
    • setting registration fees and requirements
    • prohibiting dogs from specified public places
    • requiring dogs to be leashed in specified public places
    • designating areas where dogs can be exercised off a leash but must be under voice or hand control
    • limiting the number of dogs that may be kept on any land or premises.

    Menacing dogs
    Councils can classify a dog as menacing if it considers that it poses a threat to any person, stock, poultry, domestic animal, or protected wildlife because of
    • any observed or reported behaviour of the dog; or
    • any characteristics typically associated with the dog’s breed or type.
    Councils must classify a dog as menacing if it belongs wholly or predominately to the type or breed of dog banned from importation into New Zealand - American Pit Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentino, Brazilian Fila, Japanese Tosa.

    Menacing dogs must be muzzled when in public places and may be required by the council to be neutered.

    Dangerous dogs
    Councils can classify a dog as dangerous if
    • the owner is convicted of an offence where their dog has rushed at someone and caused harm or damage
    • on the basis of sworn evidence, the dog is believed to be a threat to public safety
    • the owner has admitted in writing that the dog is a threat to public safety.
    Councils must classify a dog as dangerous if the owner has been convicted of an offence relating to harm or damage and no destruction order has been made.

    Dangerous dogs are required to be kept within a fully fenced area, neutered and muzzled and kept on a leash in public places.

    Classifying Owners
    Councils can disqualify someone from owning a dog or declare them to be a probationary owner if they incur more than three infringement offences within two years or are convicted of an offence under the Dog Control Act, Parts 1 and 2 of the Animal Welfare Act 1999, section 26ZZP of the Conservation Act 1987, or section 56I of the National Parks Act 1980.

    As well as having a policy and making local bylaws, your local council provides or arranges local dog control services including dog registration, dog complaint handling, education and information about dog control and safety around dogs, pick up, impounding, rehoming or destruction of stray or seized dogs.

    For more detailed information about your responsibilities and rights as a dog owner in your area, you should check your local council’s bylaws and dog control information. See Your Council.

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