Improving identification of cats and dogs and promoting responsible pet ownership

In May 2018, the NSW Government has introduced a Bill to Parliament to amend the Companion Animals Act 1998 (CA Act) and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (POCTA).

The Companion Animals and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 allows the NSW Government to implement key commitments made in response to recommendations made by the Joint Select Committee Inquiry into Companion Animal Breeding Practices.

The Bill also includes 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 Bill does not include any changes to the Standards and Guidelines for Pet Shops or Breeders of Cats and Dogs, which will be progressed later in the year in consultation with stakeholders.

This Bill will improve the identification of companion animals to support 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.

What will the changes deliver?

Outcome

Changes enabled by the Bill

Better data capture about cats and dogs

  • A new and improved Companion Animals Register (also known as the 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.

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 body number. Working dogs that are exempt from microchipping under the Companion Animals Act 1998 will also be exempt from the advertising requirement.

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.

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.

Responsible pet ownership

  • The Bill:
    • Introduces 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.
    • Creates a second, separate offence that may apply if an owner fails to register their cat or dog more than once.
    • Enables a 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.

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.

Better data capture and traceability of cats and dogs

The Bill will enable the Office of Local Government to deliver a new and improved Companion Animals Register (also known as the 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.

If the Bill becomes law, 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.

This change seeks to enable potential purchasers to make more informed choices.  Animal welfare enforcement agencies would also be able to use these advertisements to identify ‘problem’ breeders and enforce animal welfare laws.

How the Pet registry would work

How the advertising requirement would work