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Resource material › Dog Control › Key Facts

Dog Control Amendment Act 2003

The 2003 changes to the Dog Control Amendment Act focus on improving dog control and increasing public safety around dogs.

The package of measures makes it easier for dog control officers to seize dogs that have attacked and provide a process for classifying dogs as 'menacing'. Penalties were increased and there are more options for dealing with probationary dog owners.

Microchipping provides a simple way of identifying dogs and linking them to their owner, making dog control easier and more effective.

Microchipping applies from 1 July 2006 for:
  • dogs first registered from that date (mainly puppies) except certain working farm dogs (1), which are exempt
  • dogs that have been classified as dangerous or menacing after 1 December 2003
  • dogs that are unregistered and are impounded
  • dogs that are registered and get impounded twice.

(1): Working farm dogs are kept solely or primarily for herding or driving stock.

National Dog Database
The database includes registration information on all dogs, including microchip number (where applicable).

Local councils supply and maintain information on the database.

Microchipping and the National Dog Database will together make it easier to keep track of dangerous and menacing dogs and to identify owners of lost or stolen dogs.

Fencing dogs
Owners must ensure that when on their property their dog is either under control or cannot freely leave.

Dogs classified as 'dangerous' must be kept within a securely fenced portion of the owner's property.

Disqualification from dog ownership
Councils can disqualify someone from owning a dog for up to five years if they commit three infringement offences within 24 months, or are convicted of (non-infringement) offences.

Probationary owners
Councils can declare someone a probationary owner if they commit three infringement offences within 24 months, or are convicted of (non-infringement) offences. Councils can require a probationary owner to undertake a dog education programme and/or a dog obedience course.

Banned breeds
The following five breeds cannot be imported into New Zealand: American Pit Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentino, Brazilian Fila, Japanese Tosa and Perro de Presa Canario.

Other breeds or types of dogs can be added to the list of restricted dogs, but only after an Order in Council is agreed by Parliament.

Before recommending such an Order, the Minister of Local Government is required to consult with local government, animal welfare organisations, dog clubs and veterinary practices, as appropriate.

Menacing dogs
A classification of menacing dog was created under the Act. A council may declare a dog menacing if it considers the dog may pose a threat to any person, stock, poultry, domestic animal, or protected wildlife because of:

(i) any observed or reported behaviour of the dog; or

(ii) any characteristics typically associated with the dog's breed or type.

If a council believes on reasonable grounds that a dog is wholly or predominantly one or more of the banned breeds or types it must classify it as menacing.

Menacing dogs must be muzzled in public and the council may require it to be neutered.

Dangerous dogs
A council must classify as a dangerous dog:

(a) any dog in respect of which the owner has been convicted of a rushing offence (the Act sets out what constitutes a rushing offence);

(b) any dog which the council has (on the basis of sworn evidence attesting to aggressive behaviour by the dog on one or more occasions) reasonable grounds to believe constitutes a threat to the safety of any person, stock, poultry, domestic animal, or protected wildlife;

(c) any dog that the owner admits in writing constitutes a threat to the safety of any person, stock, poultry, domestic animal, or protected wildlife.

Dangerous dogs must be leashed and muzzled in public and are also required to be securely fenced on the owner's property without blocking access to any dwelling.

Leashing dogs in public places
Council reviews of dog control policies has resulted in dogs being required to be on a leash in most popular public places.

Dogs will still be able to be run off-leash in areas not designated as on-leash or dog free (these will often be more remote areas). Check with the local council if you are unsure where these areas are.

All dangerous dogs are required to be leashed in public, except in dog exercise areas. They must be muzzled in all public places.

Most fines under the Act have increased to a maximum of $3,000. The penalty for owning a dog involved in an attack causing serious injury has increased to a maximum fine of $20,000 or a maximum of three years in jail.

Council powers to seize dogs
Dog control officers and dog rangers have the power to seize dogs that:
  • have attacked;
  • have rushed (ie. dogs in public places that have rushed or startled a person or animal and caused injury, endangerment, damage or death);
  • are unregistered;
  • do not have adequate food or water, or shelter;
  • wander and are not under control; and
  • have owners who have not met the obligations for keeping a dangerous or menacing dog.

Council provision of information on dog control administration
Councils are required to report annually on their dog control activities, including information on the number of registered dogs, dogs declared dangerous and menacing, infringement notices issued, number of dog related complaints and the nature of those complaints, and prosecutions taken under the Act.