How to be a good dog owner
A dog owner has many responsibilities. Legally you are required to care for your pet and make sure it gets enough food, water, shelter, exercise and proper care and attention. You also need to keep your dog under control at all times so it won’t cause problems for anyone else.
There are five internationally recognised freedoms for animals and following these will help you to be a good dog owner, they are:
- Proper and sufficient food and water
- adequate shelter
- the opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour
- protection from, and rapid diagnosis of, any significant injury or disease
- being handled in a way that minimises the likelihood of unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.
Understanding legal duties
There’s a range of responsibilities which come with dog ownership. We’ve outlined key legal obligations here for you. It’s important to read and understand the information as it applies to you and your dog.
Sections 52, 53 and 54A, Dog Control Act 1996
The owner of a dog must keep the dog under control at all times and, when in a public place with the dog, must use or carry a leash.
A dog will be treated as not being under control:
- If it is found at large on any land or premises, other than a public place or a private way, without the consent (express or implied) of the occupier or person in charge of the land or the premises
- if it is found at large in any public place or in any private way in contravention of any regulations or bylaw.
You will commit an offence and be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $3,000 if you fail to comply with this provision.
Section 54, Dog Control Act 1996
- Ensure that the dog receives proper care and attention and is supplied with proper and sufficient food, water, and shelter
- ensure that the dog receives adequate exercise.
You will commit an offence and be liable on conviction to imprisonment for up to 3 months or to a fine not exceeding $5,000 if you fail to comply with this provision.
Duties on the property
Section 52A, Dog Control Act 1996
The owner of a dog must ensure, when the dog is on land or premises occupied by the owner:
- That the dog is under the direct control of a person
- that the dog is confined within the land or premises in such a way that it cannot freely leave the land or premises.
You will commit an offence and be liable on conviction to a fine of $3,000 if you fail to comply with this provision. In addition, a dog control officer or dog ranger may seize and impound the dog.
A checklist of good dog ownership
Make sure your dog is:
- Registered and microchipped, unless exempt
- properly fed, watered, exercised, housed and cared for
- kept under the direct control of a person, or confined in a way that means they cannot leave the property they are being kept on without you
- muzzled and leashed at all times in public if it is classified as either dangerous or menacing.
Take steps to make sure your dog does not:
- injure, endanger, intimidate or distress any person or animal
- become a nuisance through persistent, loud barking or howling
- damage or endanger any property belonging to another person
Make sure you:
- Tell us about any dog address or ownership change
- comply with the laws set out in the Dog Control Act 1996 and all regulations and bylaws.
More information on your responsibilities below.
30 November 2022
Animal welfare resource
Getting your dog registered
Register before 3 months old
All dogs over the age of 3 months ordinarily kept in the district must be registered with Southland District Council. It is an offence to keep a dog older than 3 months which is unregistered. On conviction, a court may impose a fine of up to $3,000. When registering a dog, it is an offence to make any written statement knowing it to be false. On conviction, a court may impose a fine of up to $3,000.
Showing your dog is registered
Replacement discs and collars may be obtained from us if the current one has been lost or stolen.
Any dog not wearing a collar with a current registration label or disc attached will, until the contrary is proved, be treated as unregistered. If it is on land or premises other than its owner’s, or in any public place, the dog may be seized and impounded.
If the fee for the registration of a dog is paid and that dog dies, a refund will be made on request as follows:
- Where a dog dies before the commencement of the year, the full fee will be refunded
- where the dog dies during the year, 1/12th of the annual fee for each complete month remaining in the registration year after the date of application for a refund will be refunded.
Changes to dogs and/or dog ownership
Changes relating to your dog or ownership can be made on the Update dog owner details page on this website.
If ownership changes, both the previous owner and the new owner must, within 14 days, give written notice to Southland District Council or other council, along with the residential address of the new owner and the address where the dog will be kept. It is an offence not to comply with this requirement. On conviction, a court may impose a fine of up to $500.
If the owner’s address is changed within the District, the owner must, within 14 days, give written notice to Southland District Council.
If any dog is transferred to and kept in the district of another territorial authority for one month or more, the owner must, within 6 weeks of the transfer, give written notice to both territorial authorities, setting out the address where the dog will be kept. It is an offence not to comply with this requirement. On conviction, a court may impose a fine of up to $500.