Dog owner responsibilities, Kaipara District Council

Dog owner responsibilities

The Council's Management Team can help you to be aware of your responsibilities as a dog owner and to understand types of problem behaviour in dogs.

As a dog owner, you have a number of legal and moral responsibilities to ensure the safety and well-being of your pet and those around you. Make sure you are aware of all your responsibilities before getting a dog.

  • Ensuring your dog is registered and microchipped (where applicable) is a legal requirement and helps us reunite lost pets with owners.
  • It is important to remember that any dog can bite, so care must be taken to ensure your dog is kept under control at all times to prevent any problems occurring. Keeping your dog under control includes situations within your own home and outside, ensuring it obeys your commands and is either on a leash or under voice control in areas where it is allowed to run free.
  • To be on the safe side, it is always best to avoid letting your dog run free in areas where small children, livestock, poultry or protected wildlife are present. There are a number of places where you can exercise your dog off a leash, within a safe and controlled environment.
  • If you own a dog that is classified as dangerous or menacing, then you have more obligations to ensure everyones safety and to avoid any offences against you and your pet.
  • Remember when exercising your dog in parks or on our beaches, be especially vigilant of our wildlife and please keep your dog from disturbing or endangering any other animals.
  • Most importantly, love and have fun with your dog.

Dog control offences

Every dog has the potential to bite, regardless of whether or not you think your dog is friendly. As an owner you need to be aware of the legal obligations and consequences to you, should your dog attack people or other animals.

Legal consequences around safety issues

Some dogs have the predisposition to attack.  Some attack people for no obvious reason and some attack other animals or stock. Because dog attacks are common in New Zealand, we have special laws and bylaws that dog owners must be aware of in order to help prevent recurring attacks. These rules are:

  • Owners of dogs involved in a serious attack can be prosecuted
  • Dogs may be impounded and/or put down if they attack people or animals (including protected wildlife).
  • If your dog attacks any person, stock, poultry, domestic animal or protected wildlife you can be prosecuted and fined up to $3,000 if convicted.  On top of this, you are also liable for the costs of any damage that occurs.
  • Your dog will be required to wear a muzzle. If you breach that requirement you may be fined an additional $3,000 and the dog may be then put down.
  • If any attack by your dog causes serious injury or death to a person or protected wildlife, you may be liable for a prison term of up to three years and/or a fine of $20,000. Your dog would also most likely be put down.
  • An Animal Management Officer, Dog Ranger or Police Constable can enter any premises to seize and impound a dog that is deemed to be threatening the safety of any person or animal.

Probationary or disqualified owners

Any owner can be classified as a probationary or disqualified owner in the following circumstances.

Anybody with three or more infringement notices within a two-year period, or is convicted of any offence under the Dog Control Act 1996 will be classified as a probationary owner.

This means:

  • The probationary owner status will take effect for two years.
  • Any dog not registered at the time of the classification must be re-homed or disposed of within 14 days.
  • Any dog already registered may be kept by the owner but the registration fees may incur a 50% surcharge.
  • The probationary owner may be required to take dog owner education training and/or a dog obedience class, or disqualified as an owner of a dog as described below.

Anybody with three or more infringement notices within a two-year period, or is convicted of any offence under the Dog Control Act 1996 may also be classified as a disqualified owner.  This means:

  • They may not be allowed to own a dog for up to five years from the time of disqualification.
  • Any dog owned by the disqualified owner must be re-homed or put down within 14 days (the dogs cannot be transferred to another owner at the same address).
  • Any owner who breaches these conditions may be fined up to $3,000 and have an additional five years disqualification period extension to their status.

Owners are legally responsible for keeping their dog under control at all times. Failure to do so is an offence with a fine of up to $3,000 or an infringement fee of $300.

Dogs that are roaming or off-leash can:

  • Intimidate and harm people and animals
  • Create health and hygiene problems by fouling in public and scattering rubbish
  • Cause traffic hazards.

Private property

You can control your dog within physical limits by fencing, kennels, chaining your dog or leaving it indoors, always with adequate water and food.

Keep the access way from the street to your front door clear to ensure your dog does not threaten anyone.

In general, fences should be at least 1.2 metres high. Make sure there are no holes or weak points where your dog can escape.

It is an offence to allow your dog to freely leave your property. Failure to confine your dog to your property may result in a fine of up to $3,000 or an infringement fee of $300.

Public areas

Control your dog by command and keep it on a leash in all public places (except in designated exercise areas).

Exercise and care

Owners must ensure their dog receives proper care and attention. Specifically, this means providing adequate food, water, shelter and exercise. Failure to comply is an offence carrying a prison term of three months or a fine up to $5,000.