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Responsibilities of cat and dog owners

Responsibilities of cat and dog owners

Where can I find the law about keeping cats?

The laws about your responsibilities in keeping domestic cats are found in:

  • the Cat Act 2011 (WA)
  • the Cat Regulations 2012 (WA)
  • local government laws. These can be introduced to set out cat free zones and to deal with nuisance behaviour by cats.

The Cat Act 2011 (WA) applies state wide and requirements are the same with each local government.

What are my legal responsibilities as a cat owner?

If your cat has reached six months of age they must be:

  • microchipped

  • sterilised, and

  • registered with your local government.

You can be fined up to $5,000 for each requirement if they are not carried out unless:

  • the cat belongs to a class of cats prescribed as exempt from registration
  • the cat has not been registered as it is within 14 days of you either just moving to WA or just starting keeping the cat, or
  • the cat is exempt from sterilisation or microchipping.

You must register your cat within 14 days if you have just moved to WA or just started keeping your cat to avoid being fined.

To be a cat owner you must be over 18 years of age. If you are under 18 years of age the cat must be registered under the name of one of your parents or your guardian. 

Your cat  also has to wear a collar and registration tag in a public place to make sure that your cat can be easily identified and returned to you. You can be fined up to $5,000 if your cat is not wearing its registration tag in a public place and it is not exempt from this requirement.

What are the exemptions to the sterilisation of cats?

Your cat does not have to be sterilised if :

  • a veterinarian has given a certificate stating that to sterilise your cat may adversely affect its health and welfare
  • you are an approved cat breeder and you have the cat for the purpose of breeding, or
  • the cat belongs to a class of cats prescribed as exempt from sterilisation.

What are the exemptions to the microchipping of cats?

Your cat does not have to be microchipped if a veterinarian has given a certificate stating that to implant a microchip in your cat may adversely affect the health and welfare of your cat. This certificate does not apply if your cat is under six months of age.

What about the costs involved if I am a pensioner or on a low income?

If you are a pensioner you will receive a discount with local governments on registration fees.

The WA Government has also provided funding to help provide low cost sterilisation for cats owned by pensioners and people on low income. Go to the Department of Local Government and Communities (DLGC) website to find details of where you can go.

How do I register my cat?

To register your cat you will need to apply to your local government. A fee is payable. Visit the DLGC website to find contact details for your local government.

What if I want to breed cats?

All cat breeders have to be approved by your local government even to breed one litter. Contact your local government to get an application form. Go to the DLGC website to find the contact details for your local government.

Where can I find the law about keeping and controlling dogs?

The laws about keeping and controlling dogs are found in:

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, or something similar such as a harness, chain or cord, in any public place unless it is:
  • an official dog exercise area
  • a public place outside a town site or metropolitan region and that is not a rural leashing area specified under the Act
  • in or on a vehicle
  • being exhibited for show purposes
  • taking part in authorised obedience classes
  • a droving or stock dog (in authorised circumstances)
  • a foxhound (in authorised circumstances)
  • being used for retrieving, duck hunting or other customary sporting purposes.
A dog can also be seized and detained by the police or an authorised person if it appears that:
  • an attack by the dog has occurred
  • an attack by the dog is likely to occur
  • the dog is in a dog exercise area or a public place outside a town site or metropolitan region and that is not a rural leashing area specified under the Act and
    • it is not tethered or held by a leash, cord etc in the way specified under the Act, or
    • it is not a greyhound and is not being supervised by a competent person who is reasonably close to the dog
  • a breach of the Act in relation to the number of dogs that can be kept at premises has occurred 
  • the dog is in a place that is not public (and not a pet shop, vet premises or vehicle):   
    • without consent from the occupier or a person apparently authorised to consent for the occupier
    • without consent if the place is unoccupied, by the owner or a person apparently authorised to consent for the owner, or
    • without consent if the place is a field, paddock, yard or other place where birds or animals are kept, by the owner of the birds or animals, or 
    • it is a dangerous dog not controlled as required by the Act, or
    • for other than a dangerous dog, it is not held by a person who can control the dog or not securely tethered by a leash or similar means
  • an offence under the Act in relation to micro chipping is being committed, or
  • the dog is a dangerous dog: 
    • in relation to which moneys are owed to the local government for a relevant charge under the Act, or
    • which is not registered as required under the Act.
A person is a "competent" person to control dogs in an exercise areas and rural areas if:
  • they are a person who is liable for the control of the dog
  • they are capable of controlling it, and
  • they are carrying and capable of attaching a chain, leash, cord or harness which meets the specifications set out in the Act to the dog to control it.
There are laws about supervision of dogs in official dog exercise and rural areas. There are also special laws for greyhounds.

What are the responsibilities of a dog owner?

Download a DLGC brochure, Laws for Responsible Dog Owners, about responsible dog ownership including laws about dog registration, dangerous dogs, and restricted breeds or visit the DLGC website for more information about responsible dog ownership.

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, and
  • 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.

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.

What about dogs that are a nuisance?

The DLGC website has information on nuisance barking dogs.

How many dogs can be kept?

Local governments can limit the number of dogs (aged over three months) or limit the number of dogs of a specified breed that can be kept.
A local law cannot stop you having up to up to two dogs over three months of age and any pup of either of those dogs under that age. Whether you are allowed to keep more than two to a maximum of six (other than dangerous dogs) will depend on the laws of your local government.  If you have dangerous dogs (declared or restricted breeds) you cannot have more than two over three months of age. You cannot have any pup of a dangerous dog (restricted breed) that is under three months of age.
The court imposed penalty can be a fine of up to $5,000 ($10,000 for a dangerous dog with a minimum penalty of $500).
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 is a "dangerous dog"?

A dangerous dog is defined in the Act as :
  • a dangerous dog (declared), or
  • a dangerous dog (restricted breed), or
  • a commercial security dog.
There are now several offences relating to dangerous dogs. 
For information on the DLGC website and a factsheet you can download on:
  • dangerous dogs (restricted breeds) click here
  • dangerous dogs (declared) click here
  • commercial security dogs click here

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 animal whether or not physical injury is caused to the person or animal.
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 for a dangerous dog (up to $3,000 for other dogs).
The penalty for setting or urging a dog (other than a dangerous dog) to chase or attack a person or animal is $10,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both. For a dangerous dog the penalty can be a fine of up to $20,000 and imprisonment for two years with a minimum penalty of $1,000.
It is a criminal offence if you are responsible for a dangerous dog and it attacks someone in a way that endangers their life or kills them.
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 charge or civil claim in some circumstances. For example, it may be a defence to a charge under the Act if:
  • The dog which attacks someone on the owner's property was being used in good faith to reasonably defend any person or property (for example, against a burglar).
  • The dog was being used for the droving or removal of an animal found trespassing. Or
  • For the owner, the dog at the relevant time was in the possession or control of another person without the owner's consent.
Get legal advice about whether you have a defence.

Where can I get more information?

  • Go to the Department of Local Government and Communities website under the heading:
    • The Community/Responsible Cat Ownership for more information about cats and cat ownership including FAQs, factsheets, and other educational resources, or contact your local government.
    • The Community/Responsible Dog Ownership for more information about dogs and dog ownership. 
  • Visit the Cat Haven website for sterilisation and micro-chipping services.

Last reviewed: 17/10/2013

Last modified:


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.