Improving identification of cats and dogs and promoting responsible pet ownership

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 (POCTA Act).

The changes 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 by 1 July 2020 (see table below).

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 provides better information about cats and dogs allowing people to search for the microchip number and find the pet’s breed, age, registration and whether or not it has been de-sexed.
  • From 1 July 2020 the Register will also allow people to find out whether an annual permit is needed to keep an animal.
  • The new Register went live in late 2018.

Better traceability of cats and dogs

  • A new requirement for people advertising cats and dogs 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 are exempt from the advertising requirement.
  • For more information on buying and selling cats and dogs, visit companion animal welfare.
  • This requirement was effective at 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 were effective at 1 July 2018.

Increased ability to identify de-sexed female cats and dogs

  • 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 was effective at 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 in place from 1 July 2020.
  • 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 in place from 1 July 2020.

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 were effective at 1 July 2018.