Bellingen Council Passes Amended Keeping of Animal Policy

Published on 23 February 2023


Bellingen Shire Council has announced the passing of the amended Keeping of Animal Policy this week, with a provision for a review of the policy's efficacy before September 2024. The policy aims to inform the community of any restrictions that may apply to the number and type of animals, promoting responsible animal management, fairness, integrity, and good public administration. It also provides clarity in investigating complaints about animal keeping and potential unlawful activity.

Mayor Councillor Steve Allan stated that the policy sets guidelines for being good a pet owner, and neighbour in the Shire. “The policy is balanced and not just for animal keepers, but for the wider community, animal welfare, and the natural environment.”

The Council conducted extensive engagement on the policy, including a dedicated website for community input, social media channels, advertisements in local papers, and street stalls in Dorrigo, Urunga, and Bellingen. The policy received 186 public submissions, highlighting that animal ownership is a sensitive issue for the community.

During the Ordinary Council Meeting, Mayor Councillor Steve Allan acknowledged that animal ownership presents vastly differing views within the community. While it was a concern that the Council may be over-regulating, it was also suggested through submissions that the Keeping of Animal Policy may be under-regulating the issue.

Councilors Ellie Tree and Jennie Fenton raised concerns that policing the policy would be difficult and discussion ensued at the meeting, acknowledging that the policy serves as a guide for understanding what is acceptable for animal keeping in the Shire and to place a baseline to manage community complaints, which is a local government responsibility under the Companion Animals Act, 1998.

Weighing the report and the community feedback, Mayor Councillor Steve Allan, in support of the policy, assured the community, “I don’t believe this is a jackboot approach where the Council will be marching through backyards inspecting chickens, but it does provide a framework for council and our community to understand obligations around the keeping of animals in the Shire.”

The Council has passed the amendment to review the policy's efficacy in 12 months with a 6:1 vote. The policy is designed to remove the grey area and make it clear what is and is not acceptable in keeping animals.

View the policy here