Controlling your dog

Controlling your dog

The Dog Control Act 1996 requires owners to keep their dogs under control.

Dog owners need to ensure their dogs do not:

  • cause a nuisance  (e.g. through barking or fouling)
  • cause damage to property
  • injure, endanger or cause distress to any person, stock, poultry or domestic animal, or protected wildlife.

Controlling your dog on your own property

Under the Dog Control Act, a dog owner must ensure that, when their dog is on their property, it is either:

  • under the direct control of a person, or  
  • confined in such a manner that it cannot freely leave the property.

Dogs can be confined to a property in various ways, e.g. by fencing, a sonic barrier or having a dog on a running wire.

Any fencing needs to be tall enough to contain a dog, as some dogs can jump well over six feet.

The fencing should be impenetrable, i.e. not have holes or gaps. This is especially important with hedges.

Owners should check if their dog can climb on something, like a compost bin or wood pile, to jump over a fence.

If your dog has been classified as dangerous you must provide a securely fenced area so visitors can have "unhindered access to the dwelling house". 

Controlling your dog in public places

Keeping your dog under control means:

  • ensuring your dog is not causing a nuisance or danger
  • having your dog under continuous surveillance
  • being able to get an immediate and desired response from the dog by use of a leash, voice commands, hand signals, whistles or other effective means.

In many cases, people would have different views about whether a dog was under control. 

Sometimes, what one person would see as playful or boisterous, but harmless behaviour, others may see as "out of control" behaviour. For instance, if your dog jumps on someone, some people find it unpleasant and even frightening while other people do not mind. 

Keep in mind that elderly people may be badly injured if they are knocked over and that dogs need to be closely supervised when they are near children.

Dealing with control problems

If you are having problems controlling your dog, you could:

  • de-sex your dog
  • keep your dog on a long leash while in the off leash areas 
  • muzzle your dog in public
  • attend dog obedience classes. The New Zealand Kennel Club has a list of dog obedience clubs
  • talk to your vet and/or an animal control officer
  • consult an animal behaviouralist 
  • talk to experienced dog owners.

There are excellent books about dog behaviour, including books in public libraries. There are also excellent websites about dog behaviour.

Doggy doo is a doggy don't

Auckland dog owners must remove and appropriately dispose of any droppings left by the dog in a public place.

A plastic supermarket bag comes in very handy or you can buy biodegradable "doggy do" bags at supermarkets and pet stores.

Owners who do not pick up their dog's "doo" may be issued an infringement notice with a $300 fine

Penalties for out-of-control dogs

What we can do

There is a range of possible consequences if any dog you own or are responsible for is not kept under control. 

We can take action against you (and your dog) by:

  • issuing an infringement notice or prosecuting
    • If your dog attacks a person or animal, you can be fined up to $3,000. If your dog causes serious injury or death to a person or protected wildlife, you may be fined up to $20,000 and/or imprisoned for up to three years. 
    • Dogs that attack people, stock, poultry, domestic animals and protected wildlife may be seized or destroyed. 
    • You may also be required to pay damage related costs, e.g. vet bills. 
  • classifying a dog as menacing
  • classifying a dog as dangerous
  • classifying a dog owner as probationary or disqualified
    • If you are convicted under the Dog Control Act 1996 or receive three or more infringement notices in a two-year period, you may be classified as a probationary owner for up to two years.  Any dog not registered at the time of classification must be disposed of (given away or sold) within 14 days.  
    •  If you are convicted under the Dog Control Act 1996 or receive three or more infringement notices in a two-year period may be disqualified from owning a dog for up to five years.  Any dog owned at the time of classification must be disposed of (given away or sold) within 14 days.

What others can do

Apart from us, others may take civil or criminal action against you if you do not keep your dog under control.

For instance, if your dog is aggressive, members of the public may take civil action against you to recover vet expenses, or damage to property caused by your dog. 

In very serious cases, the police may prosecute you. 

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