The whys and wherefores of bylaws: Pets
by SANDI MILLER
7th October 2019
Photo: Anthony Edge
HAVING A PET is a privilege and a responsibility.
There are rules around pet ownership that must be adhered to.
These rules ensure that both your pets and other members of the community are able to live together.
These rules are administered by our local councils, and while they differ slightly across all municipalities across Victoria, they all follow State Law, largely the Domestic Animals Act 1994.
Manningham’s Acting Director City Planning and Community, Niall Sheehy and Nillumbik CEO, Carl Cowie gave the Diary the lowdown about pet ownership in their municipalities.
Getting a pet
What some people may not be aware of, is that from July,1 2019, any person or business who is advertising to sell or give away a dog, cat, puppy or kitten will need to be enrolled on the Pet Exchange Register.
“The dog or cat must be advertised with the animal’s microchip number and source number, which has been generated by the Pet Exchange Register,” said Mr Sheehy.
The Pet Exchange Register allocates this unique source number to animals which ensures sellers are transparent about where an animal comes from.Sellers must ensure animals are microchipped before they change owners and animals must be microchipped before 12 weeks of age.
Once someone takes ownership of a new pet, they should contact Council to register their animal as soon as possible.
Pet registrations are due to be renewed each year on April 10, but all puppies and kittens must be registered by three months of age — this is not the same as microchip registration.
The registration fee gives you more than just a lost and found service for your pet.
It is also funds:
- facilities such as dog parks, dog poo bins and pounds/shelters
- animal management staff to attend to nuisance complaints, investigate dog attacks, patrol parks/beaches/streets, and collect and return stray animals to owners
- events such as pet expos and discount microchipping days
- information such as responsible pet ownership publications, websites, and online courses
- domestic animal business audits (e.g. to check animal welfare standards in pet shops, breeding facilities, boarding kennels etc)
- management of dangerous and restricted breed dogs
- dog bite prevention education programs for kindergarten and primary school children
- emergency animal welfare preparedness
- research into a range of dog and cat welfare issues
In Manningham and Nillumbik there are limits to the number of pets and/or livestock per household can have.
Residents can have two cats and two dogs per household without needing a permit.
There are also limits on other animals that can be kept.
In Nillumbik, without a permit a person must not keep more than:
- 5 reptiles* or rodents
- 10 large birds
- 25 small birds
- 1 rooster
- 24 poultry
on any land throughout the municipality.
Keeping some animals may require additional licences.
*You are able to have up to five reptiles without a permit, however, you may need to obtain a licence from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) to keep most species of reptiles in captivity.
In Manningham, the numbers vary slightly:
- 13 domestic birds
- 8 mice
- 4 rabbits
- 8 guinea pigs
- 4 chickens, ducks, geese or pigeons
If you wish to exceed these limits, you may apply for an excess animal permit.
In Manningham, a permit is required to keep any emu, ostrich, goat, sheep, cow, pig, bull, or horse in an area less than two acres (8000 sqm).
And in either municipality, a person must not keep any livestock on any land in a residential zone or any land of an area less than 4000sqm.
A pet pig, for example, is considered livestock, so depending on the land zoning and size, a permit may be required.
Mr Cowie told the Diary if residents are seeking to keep animals outside these categories there is a vast array of laws that impact on having exotic or native animals as pets.
“In general, Agriculture Victoria is responsible for the legislation, regulations and standards that governs ownership of these pet types,” he said.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 protects the welfare of all animals, including amphibians.
Council is responsible for any issues that relate to breaches of containment, cleanliness, smell or noise nuisance that may come from exotic and native pets.
If you want to keep a native animal, for example a dingo, possum, or kangaroo, a private wildlife licence would be required.
These can be obtained through DELWP.
There are several areas of conflict where dog owners come into conflict with other community members.
One is persistent barking.
If a dog in a neighbouring property is too noisy and unreasonably disturbs you, the first step is to make contact with the dog owner to alert them that their dog is causing a nuisance.
If the barking persists and is deemed to be unreasonable, you can contact council to intervene.
The other area of conflict is dog waste.
Mr Sheehy told the Diary that for the enjoyment of the whole community dog owners need to carry a waste bag and pick up after their dog in public.
“Failure to do so could result in a $200 fine,” he said.
He said Manningham Council provide free poo pouches to dog owners.
“These pouches are often handed out by Council Rangers at our parks and reserves”.
Mr Cowie said Nillumbik Shire Council’s Amenity Local Law, states that a person in charge of a dog in a public place must have dog poo bags (or another receptacle to pick up their dog’s excrement) with them.
“They must ensure their dog’s excrement is collected and disposed of appropriately.
“Additionally, if requested by an authorised officer, the owner must present the bags (or other receptacle) they have with them to collect their pet’s waste,” Mr Cowie said.
There are many places to take dogs to run off-leash.
Manningham has 81 off-lead dog areas, including 28 sporting grounds and the popular Warrandyte River Reserve.
Nillumbik have 13 off-lead areas, including two dedicated off-lead dog parks.
One is in Diamond Creek and the other in Hurstbridge.Mr Cowie said off-lead areas throughout the municipality can be located on the Nillumbik website.
However, there are no Council-managed off-lead areas located in North Warrandyte.
Off-lead does not mean a dog can run amok.
“Every off-lead dog area has its own signage and guidelines that must be adhered to and they all require off-lead dogs to be under effective control,” said Mr Sheehy.
Effective control by command means the dog must be:
- Within 25 metres of the owner.
- The owner is able to see the dog at all times.
- The owner can recall the dog immediately when needed.
There are further guidelines that help people to act as responsible dog owners and avoid causing concern to other users of a park.
- A dog is at least 15 metres away from permanent barbecue facilities, children’s play equipment, organised sporting events, approved functions or public meetings.
- A dog’s owner has a leash on hand at all times.
- A dog is not threatening of worrying any other user of the park.
- A dog’s owner brings their dog under immediate control if any aggressive behaviour or threat is displayed to another person or animal.
- A dog’s owner stays alert and focused on the dog at all times.
- A dog’s owner brings a maximum of two dogs to the park at one time.
There are rules around some breeds of dog which require special registration and cannot be imported or bred.
These include pure or cross bred American Pit Bull Terriers (or Pit Bull Terriers), Perro de Presa Canarios, Dogo Argentinos, Japanese Tosas, and Fila Brasileiros.
Rules have been removed for owners of greyhounds.
As of January 1, 2019, all pet greyhounds are no longer legally required to wear a muzzle in public, including retired racing greyhounds.
A greyhound adopted through Greyhound Racing Victoria’s Greyhound Adoption Program must always be on lead in any public place, but like other dogs, all greyhounds still need to be under effective control by their owner.
Cat owner responsibilities
There is no cat curfew in Manningham.
However, Council recommends that cats be confined to their owner’s properties.
Nillumbik Shire Council has an order requiring cats to be confined during the specified hours of 7:30pm to 6am and restricts the presence of cats in certain public areas (e.g. parks or reserves).
The curfew time remains the same all year round — including during daylight saving time.
Mr Sheehy said as per Victorian state law, cat owners are responsible for ensuring their cats do not wander onto a private property at any time.
“Stray cats may be seized, notices of objection may be served and further non-compliance may result in penalties being issued,” he said.
Vaccinating pet rabbits
Having pet rabbits can require additional precautions when kept in close proximity to feral rabbit populations.
A new strain of rabbit calicivirus, RHDV1 K5 (also known as K5); was released in Victoria in March to help land-owners control pest rabbits.
Anyone who owns pet rabbits should make sure that their vaccinations are up-to-date to protect against the virus.
Domestic pet rabbit owners can take the following extra precautions to protect pet rabbits from K5 infection:
- Prevent contact between pet and pest rabbits.
- Don’t cut grass from areas where pest rabbits may be foraging and feed it to pet rabbits.
- Wash hands with warm soapy water between handling rabbits.
- Insect-proof the hutch with fly and mosquito proof wire or keep pet rabbits indoors.
Choosing the right pet
No matter what pet you choose, the most responsible choice is one that fits in with your lifestyle.
Remember that puppies and kittens won’t be small and cute forever, so don’t get a puppy if you don’t want a dog.
They are a commitment for up to twenty years.
- What type or breed will you choose?
- What size dog?
- How much time do you have for grooming and training?
- What is your financial position?
- Will it be kept inside, outside or both?
- Why do you want a pet?
- Where you are going to buy it?
Both male and female dogs and cats can be de-sexed at three months of age.
By de-sexing your pet you are promoting responsible pet ownership by preventing unwanted litters.
Council provides a discounted registration fee for dogs and cats what have been de-sexed.
When choosing the type of pet to suit your needs, consider the amount of time the animal will be alone, the time you can commit to grooming and care.
When considering a cat, think about whether there are native birds and animals in your area and whether you will have an enclosure for your cat.
In general, fine-boned oriental cat breeds are very active companions while the larger heavy-boned breeds tend to be more sedate and less inclined to hunt and wander.
And when considering a dog, remember that a cute pup is going to grow up — six months down the track your dog could grow to be much larger than expected.
Consider going to a rescue shelter when looking to adopt a new member of your family, there are many older dogs who deserve a second chance.
For more information, see your relevant council’s website, DELWP, or the Department of Agriculture, or get down to the Nillumbik Pet Expo in Diamond Creek on Sunday, October 20 and talk to Council officers about responsible pet ownership.