Responsibilities of Pet Owners

Smiling woman holding her dog

From 1 July 2020, the NSW Government introduced annual permits for non-desexed cats and restricted and dangerous dogs as part of its commitment to promoting responsible pet ownership and improving animal welfare standards. Find out more here.

To ensure the comfort, safety and health of the whole community the Companion Animals Act places certain responsibilities on all pet owners.

Legal Responsibilities

Here is a summary of the responsibilities of dog owners under the Act:

  • If your dog is in a public place it must be under the effective control of a competent person by means of an adequate chain, cord or leash. The exceptions to this are:
    • Dogs exhibited at a show or engaging in obedience or agility trials, or
    • A dog secured in a cage or vehicle or in an approved off-leash area
  • If your dog is being exercised in an approved off-leash area it must always be under effective control of a competent person
  • You are not permitted to walk more than four dogs at any one time in an on-leash area or an off-leash area
  • Greyhounds must be muzzled at all times when in a public place
  • If your dog defecates in a public place it is an offence not to remove the faeces.

Dogs, with the exception of police dogs and assistance animals, are prohibited in children’s play areas, food preparation/consumption areas, recreation areas, public bathing areas, school grounds, child care centres, shopping areas and wildlife protection areas.

Microchipping and Registration

In NSW, all cats and dogs, other than exempt cats and dogs, must be microchipped by 12 weeks of age or before being sold or given away, whichever happens first.

All cats and dogs, other than exempt cats and dogs, must be registered by six months of age.

The registration fee is a once-only payment, which covers the cat or dog for its lifetime in NSW, regardless of any changes in ownership. You are encouraged to have your cat or dog desexed before registering it.

Discounted registration fees apply to desexed cats or dogs.

If you fail to microchip or register your cat or dog when required to do so you may be issued with a fixed penalty notice of up to $330, or a court may award a maximum penalty of up to $5500 or up to $6,500 if your dog is a restricted dog or a declared dangerous or menacing dog.

For more information and to register your pet, visit the NSW Pet Registry

Find out more information about registration and microchipping on our Registration and Microchipping page or visit the Office of Local Government's Pet Registry page.

Annual permits for non-desexed cats and dangerous/restricted dogs

Find more information on our Annual permits for non desexed cats and dangerous restricted dogs page.

Caring for Your Animal

Being the owner of a companion animal is a big responsibility. When you buy or are given a dog or a cat, there are many things you need to do to look after it properly. You should ensure that it is healthy, well nourished, groomed, vaccinated, properly exercised and socialised. Of course, you will also want to make sure that it is happy and comfortable. A well cared for companion animal can provide great enjoyment and companionship.

The RSPCA website provides more information about proper care and management of dogs.

Companion Animals

As a companion animal owner, you also have responsibilities towards other members of the community as well as towards your pet. The Companion Animals Act sets out some of these responsibilities, and gives councils the power to assist, and where necessary enforce the law to ensure that owners meet these responsibilities.

You are responsible for ensuring that your animal does not harm or threaten any other person or animal. For dog owners this means that you must be able to contain your dog on your property, and when you are in public with your dog you must keep it on a leash except in specially designated off-leash areas.

Restricted Breeds

The owners of restricted dogs, including American Pit Bull Terriers, Pit Bull Terrier and cross Pit Bulls, have a range of more stringent responsibilities, as do the owners of dogs which have been declared dangerous for attacking other animals or people. It is prohibited to sell, breed or give away restricted dogs. For more information please see the Menacing, Dangerous and Restricted Dogs page.

Your Responsibility to Wildlife

Owners of cats are encouraged to teach them to stay inside at night to reduce the chances of them fighting and hunting other animals. It is also a good idea to make your cat wear a bell on its collar to warn animals that it may try to hunt. In addition you are required to ensure that your cat stays out of restricted areas including food preparation and wildlife protection areas.

As an owner of either a dog or a cat you must make sure that your animal is not causing a nuisance, whether by persistently making a noise (see barking dogs), straying, interfering with other people’s property or otherwise. Dog owners are also required to promptly dispose of any faeces which their dog may deposit anywhere.