On 6 June 2018, the NSW Government passed a Bill in Parliament to amend the Companion Animals Act 1998 and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979.
The Companion Animals and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 allows the NSW Government to implement recommendations made by the Joint Select Committee Inquiry into Companion Animal Breeding Practices and other changes in response to community feedback received in 2017 through the statutory review of the Companion Animals Regulation 2008 (led by the Office of Local Government).
The changes to the Acts will improve the identification of companion animals to allow better traceability of cats and dogs, promote responsible pet ownership and enable more effective enforcement action to be taken against people who break the law. The changes will be phased in over the next 12 months (see table below).
There will be no changes to the Standards and Guidelines for Pet Shops or Breeders of Cats and Dogs, which will be progressed at a later date in consultation with stakeholders.
What will the changes deliver?
Changes enabled by the Bill
Better data capture about cats and dogs
- A new and improved Companion Animals Register (also known as the NSW Pet Registry) with appropriate levels of access for the public, veterinarians, councils and other agencies.
- The Register will provide better information about dogs and cats allowing people to search for the microchip number and find the pet’s breed, age, registration and whether or not is has been de-sexed.
- The new Register will go live later in 2018.
Better traceability of cats and dogs
- A new requirement for people advertising dogs and cats for sale or to give away to include an identifying number ‒ either the microchip number, a breeder identification number or a rehoming organisation number. Working dogs that are exempt from microchipping under the Companion Animals Act 1998 will also be exempt from the advertising requirement.
- This requirement will take effect on 1 July 2019.
Improved enforcement of animal welfare laws and support for enforcement agencies
- More options for the court to make orders preventing a person who has been convicted of an animal cruelty offence having control or influence over other animals regardless of who owns them.
- New interim court orders, enabling recovery of costs of providing care for animals required as a result of an animal cruelty offence.
- These changes take effect from 1 July 2018.
Increased ability to identify de-sexed female dogs and cats
- A requirement for veterinarians to tattoo the ears of female cats and dogs when de-sexing them under anaesthetic, where it can be safely and humanely undertaken and with the owner’s consent.
- This requirement will take effect on 1 July 2019.
Responsible pet ownership
- Annual permits for cats that are not de-sexed by four months of age. If the cat is not de-sexed by four months of age, the owner must obtain an annual permit by the time their animal is six months old. These permits will be introduced from 1 July 2019.
- Creation of a second, separate offence that may apply if an owner fails to register their cat or dog more than once.
- Higher penalty to be applied for a second or further failure to register a cat or dog.
Better protection from restricted and dangerous dogs
- New regulations to:
- define ‘serious injury’ for the purposes of declaring a dog as menacing; and
- specify ‘reasonable precautions’ to be taken to prevent a dog from escaping the property on which it is kept.
- The introduction of annual permits for dangerous and restricted dogs. Hunting dogs will not require an annual permit unless they are categorised as dangerous or restricted. These permits will be introduced from 1 July 2019.
Ensuring access for people with an assistance animal
- Increasing penalties for denying entry or charging an entry fee for an assistance animal ‒ from $880 for each offence to $1650.
- These changes take effect on 1 July 2018.
Better data capture and traceability of cats and dogs
The changes to the Companion Animals Act 1998 allows the Office of Local Government to deliver a new and improved Companion Animals Register (also known as the NSW Pet Registry).
The Register will:
- Provide more information about pet dogs and cats and their owners, including relevant information about breeders.
- Be structured so that private information is protected. There will be distinct levels of access to the Register for the general public, veterinary practices and authorised officers of enforcement agencies.
- Allow prospective pet purchasers to check for details about a cat or dog including the animal’s breed, sex, age, whether it is de-sexed, registered, and or whether a permit is in place. Details that correspond to the breeder identification number may also be available such as the business name of the owner and the breed, sex and age of all the companion animals that are recorded as having been bred by that owner.
- Promote traceability and the responsible sale of dogs and cats, particularly in the growing area of online sales.
- Enable councils and other enforcement agencies to further target ongoing education, compliance and enforcement activities.
- Allow veterinary practices to access information to help return lost pets to their owners.
From 1 July 2019, people selling or giving away dogs and cats for free will need to display a relevant identifying number in all advertisements. That is, either a microchip number, a Breeder identification number, or a Rehoming organisation number.
Breeder identification numbers will continue to be available for free through the Companion Animals Register. Rehoming organisation numbers will be issued by the Office of Local Government. It will be an offence if a person does not use one of these numbers in an advertisement or to falsify a number.
A small number of exemptions will apply. For example, working dogs that are not required to be microchipped under the Companion Animals Act 1998. The advertising requirement will apply to hunting dogs however.
The changes to advertising will mean potential purchasers can make more informed choices. Animal welfare enforcement agencies will also be able to identify ‘problem’ breeders and enforce animal welfare laws.
How the Pet registry would work