Who do I contact if I have a query or complaint about a dog?
Contact your local council or shire if you have any complaints or queries about dogs.
Where can I find the law about keeping and controlling dogs?
The laws about keeping and controlling dogs are found in:
- the Dog Act 1976 (WA)
- the Dog Regulations 1976 (WA)
- the Dog (Restricted Breed) Regulations (No 2) 2002 (WA)
- local government laws (to access your local laws about dogs go to the Department of Local Government website)
When can a dog be impounded?
The police or an authorised person from a local government can impound any dog that is found wandering without a leash in any public place unless it is:
- an official dog exercise area
- a public area outside a townsite or metropolitan region
- in or on a vehicle or boat
- being exhibited
- taking part in authorised obedience classes
- a droving or stock dog (in authorised circumstances)
- a foxhound (in authorised circumstances)
- being used for duck hunting or other customary sporting purposes
There are laws about supervision of dogs in official dog exercise areas.
Click here for a brochure about responsible dog ownership including laws about dog registration, dangerous dogs, and restricted breeds Laws for Responsible Dog Owners or visit the Department of Local Government web site for more information about responsible dog ownership.
What are the responsibilities of a dog owner?
If a dog gets out because it was not properly locked up, the owner may have to pay for any damage or injury it caused.
Anyone who has been attacked can sue for injury or damage. If you have been attacked, get legal advice about what to do and what you can claim.
If someone claims you are responsible because they were injured or damaged by a dog, get legal advice about whether you have any defence.
Who is responsible for a dog?
Any of the following people can be responsible for a dog:
- the registered owner
- the owner of the dog
- the owner or tenant of any property where the dog is kept or allowed to live
- a person who has the dog in their possession or control
This means that they can all be held liable for a fine or even for a claim for damages.
What about dogs that are a nuisance?
The Dog Act 1976 (WA) covers dogs that are a nuisance because of barking or other annoying or threatening behaviour.
If you have a problem with a neighbour's dog , eg a persistently barking dog, try speaking to your neighbour about the problem. If that doesn't lead to a solution contact your local government ranger.
Where a dog is a nuisance an authorised person or the police can issue an on the spot fine or take the matter to court. They can do this on the basis of one complaint.
If a dog annoys at least three people and two of them live in different houses, they can complain to their local government. The local government can serve a Nuisance Abatement Notice on the occupier of the property.
The notice will tell the occupier to decrease the nuisance within 14 days. If the behaviour goes on the owner can receive an on the spot fine or be prosecuted in court.
The on the spot fine for allowing a dog to be a nuisance is:
- $100 or
- $200 if the dog has been declared dangerous
If the matter is taken to court the fine can be up to $2,000 or $4,000 where the dog has been declared dangerous.
How many dogs can be kept?
In most cases local governments in urban areas limit the number of dogs to two (aged over three months).
Whether you are allowed to keep more than two will depend on the laws of your local government.
In rural areas you may be able to have as many as six.
Contact your local government for information about the laws in your area.
If you want to keep a number of dogs that is more than the local government normally allows you will need
- a kennel licence, or
- an exemption from your local government.
What are "dangerous dogs"?
A local government may declare a dog a "dangerous dog" if it attacks, shows a tendency to attack, or repeatedly rushes, threatens or chases people or animals.
If your dog is declared a dangerous dog, you have to make sure it wears a muzzle in a public place.
A local government may impose other restrictions on the dog. You can be fined up to $4,000 if you do not follow a declaration order.
Get legal advice if you think the declaration is unfair.
What are the possible legal consequences of a dog attack?
Dog owners and every person responsible for control of the dog can be prosecuted if:
- their dog chases or attacks any person, or
- their dog chases or attacks any animal owned by or in the charge of another person
The local government can ask for a court order to destroy a dog if it has attacked and caused injury or damage.
A dog attack is a very serious matter, and the penalty is up to $10,000.
The penalty for setting or urging a dog to chase or attack is $10,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.
A person who has been attacked can take private legal action for any injury or damage, including medical costs, veterinarian bills and damage to clothing etc.
The only defence an owner or other responsible person has is if the dog was provoked to attack.
Is there a defence to a dog attack claim?
There may be a defence against a claim if:
- The dog attacks someone on the owner's property "without lawful excuse" (like a burglar).
- The dog attacks another animal that enters the owners property or threatens the owner.
- A dog is in a vehicle and attacks someone trying to get into or on to the vehicle.
- The dog has been teased or assaulted.
Get legal advice about whether you have a defence.
Where can I get more information?
- Go to Department of Local Government under the heading The Community/Responsible Dog Ownership for more information about dogs and dog ownership, or environmental health and dogs
Last reviewed: 23/12/2011