Did you know that you can be held criminally liable not
only for the actions of your own dog, but also any other dog in
The Dog Control Act 1996 sets out obligations for dog owners,
including anyone who is in possession of a dog. Failure to comply
with some of these obligations can amount to a criminal offence -
even if the failure was accidental.
I left my dog in my fully fenced backyard but he dug a
hole and escaped onto my neighbour's property. Am I criminally
Yes, the Act requires owners to ensure their dogs are kept under
control at all times. A dog that has escaped from its property and
is either roaming at large or on a neighbouring property without
permission is not under control. The maximum penalty for this
offence is conviction and a fine of up to $3,000.
I was walking a friend's dog on the beach and it attacked
a child who tried to pat it. Am I criminally liable?
Yes, under the Act it is an offence if you are the owner of (or
person in possession of) a dog that:
a. makes an attack on a person (maximum penalty for this offence
is conviction and a fine of up to $3,000); or
b. makes an attack on a person causing serious injury (maximum
penalty upon conviction of imprisonment of up to 3 years or a fine
not exceeding $20,000).
Accordingly, if you are in possession of an unfamiliar dog, or a
large or aggressive dog capable of causing serious harm to others,
you should take extra care to ensure that the dog is
well-controlled in public. Once a person is convicted of an offence
involving a dog attack, the Court must also order the destruction
of the dog, unless the circumstances of the attack were
I went away on holiday and hired a student to look after
my dog. One night the student left the gate open and the dog ran
next door and killed the neighbour's pet rabbit. Am I criminally
Yes, not only does the Act require owners to ensure their dogs are
kept under control at all times, but it is an offence if you are
the owner of (or person in possession of) a dog that makes an
attack on a domestic animal (such as a pet rabbit), stock, poultry,
or protected wildlife. (The maximum penalty for this offence is
conviction and a fine of up to $3,000.) Take care to satisfy
yourself that anybody who is looking after your dog for you is
responsible and informed of any risk factors relating to your dog
(e.g. a tendency to chase cars or small animals, or a habit of
jumping up at people).
Where can I find out more?
Your local Council has the primary responsibility for enforcing
the Dog Control Act and local dog control bylaws and can provide
you with further information about the responsibilities of dog
owners and tips for how to best manage your dog's behaviour.