Dogs In Public Spaces

Dogs make wonderful companions, family members and workers with approximately 6,000+ domestic dogs living in Bellingen Shire.

Putting your dog on a lead in public spaces ensures you’re always in control and attentive to your dog including their waste. 

There are three designated off-leash (off lead) dog exercise areas in the Bellingen Shire. Use the off-leash map below, or download a pdf version.

Dorrigo:  Polocrosse fields in Ash Street

Bellingen:  Jarrett Park west of Lavenders Bridge

Urunga:  The beach south of the river mouth to the four wheel drive access point known as sand mines



There is a $330 fine for not leashing outside of designated off-leash areas.

An off-leash dog that rushes, harasses or chases a person or animal can attract a much heftier fine. See more information about responsibilities and penalties.

With reported dog attacks on the rise, you can help ‘lead the way’ to community safety, peace of mind and harmony for all people and creatures.  


Why does dog leashing matter?

Leashing is good dog community care. With dog owners generally spending more time in nature than non-dog owners, many dog owners conscientiously leash their dogs in public spaces and understand the potential impacts of free-roaming dogs.

Things to consider

  1. Even if your off-leash dog is friendly, other on-leash dogs can be more protective or aggressive when approached by off-leash dogs.
  2. Whether your dog is legally on or off-leash, before approaching an unfamiliar dog look for warning signs.
  3. In unexpected or threatening situations, normally predictable dogs can act out of character on canine instinct, especially in highly stimulating environments.
  4. Dog walking in natural habitat can reduce the number of birds by 41% and the types of birds by 35%.
  5. Off-leash dogs cause breeding shorebirds to leave their nests for longer than on-leash dogs so keeping dogs out of sand dunes helps (endangered) shorebirds to successfully raise their chicks.
  6. Dogs often out-number threatened wildlife. For example, there are approximately 100 dogs to every koala across 25% of the shire, including where koalas move between fragmented habitat close to areas regularly frequented by numerous domestic dogs.


Your Responsibilities

The law requires you to ensure the following conditions are met when your dog is in a public place. Fines apply for breaches.

  • Your dog must be under the effective control of a competent person by means of an adequate chain or leash. The exceptions to this are: dogs exhibited at a show or engaging in obedience or agility trials or a dog secured in a cage or in an approved off-leash area;

  • If your dog is being exercised in an approved off-leash area it must always be under effective control of a competent person;

  • You are not permitted to walk more than 4 dogs at any one time in an on-leash or an off-leash area;

  • Greyhounds must be muzzled at all times when in a public place, except if the greyhound has successfully completed an approved greyhound retraining program and the greyhound wears an approved collar when it is in a public place;

  • If your dog defecates in a public place it is an offence not to remove the faeces; and

  • Dogs are prohibited in children's play areas, food preparation / indoor consumption areas, recreation areas, public bathing areas, school grounds, child care centres, shopping areas and wildlife protection areas.


Assistance & Therapy Animals

Assistance Animals

Some companion animals are trained to aid people with a disability to help alleviate the effect of that disability. These assistance animals are not pets.

Assistance animals provide an important service that helps people to participate in personal and community activities more fully with confidence and independence.

What is an Assistance Animal?

An assistance animal in NSW is a dog or other animal that is either:

  • Accredited under a law of a State or Territory that provides for the accreditation of animals trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of that disability; or
  • Accredited by an animal training organisation prescribed by the Commonwealth; or
  • Trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of that disability, and, to meet standards of hygiene and behaviour appropriate for an animal in a public place.

This is based on how assistance animals are defined in Commonwealth law (Disability Discrimination Act 1992). Currently neither the Commonwealth nor NSW laws provide for the accreditation of assistance animals. A working dog cannot also be an assistance animal. A common example of assistance animals includes guide dogs for the visually impaired.

How do Assistance Dogs help?

Assistance Dogs can help with a range of conditions. They help people with physical disabilities and limitations complete day to day tasks around their homes and in the community. They help people with psychological conditions, like PTSD and Autism Spectrum Disorders, feel safe, calm and confident when out in public spaces. They provide highly specialised skills to address specific needs a person might have.

Do Assistance Animals have public access rights?

In general, animals are prohibited from entering certain public places. However, a person with a disability is entitled to be accompanied by an assistance animal in public places and on public transport while he or she is genuinely using the animal for assistance. Entry cannot be refused without reasonable cause.

An animal does not need to be registered as an assistance animal under the Companion Animals Act 1998 to be permitted access to a public place or public transport. Staff in charge of access to public places and transport are entitled to request reasonable proof that your animal is a genuine assistance animal. They may be guided by their organisation’s own policy to help them to determine this.

It is unlawful to impose a charge on a person to enter a place open to, or used by the public, only because the person is accompanied by an assistance animal unless:

  • It is reasonably necessary to supply additional accommodation for the animal and a reasonable charge is applied for that accommodation; or
  • The owner, or person in charge, of the place reasonably incurs additional expense because the animal is present, the charge is reasonable in the circumstances and is charged to compensate for the expense.

What is a Therapy Dog?

A Therapy Dog provides comfort, companionship and emotional support to individuals, families, and people visiting or living in facilities. Therapy Dogs can particularly support people who experience:

  • Behavioural, emotional, developmental, and mental health conditions; or
  • Physical disabilities; or
  • Isolation caused by age or illness.

Do Therapy Dogs have public access rights?

Therapy Dogs are placed with clients in the capacity of a companion animal, not an assistance animal. Therefore, they do not have public access rights.

Need more advice?

If you require more information please visit or alternatively contact Bellingen Shire Council during business hours on 6655 7300.