Responsibilities of Pet Owners

Dogs and cats make wonderful companions. They can give you joy, company, comfort and security.

However, they also bring you new responsibilities. As well as caring for your pet, you have legal responsibilities with the ownership of a cat or dog.

As a dog or cat owner, you need to be familiar with what those legal responsibilities are, all of which can be found in the Companion Animals Act 1998 and the associated regulations.

You need to ensure your pet is healthy and happy by keeping it well nourished, clean and groomed, vaccinated and properly exercised and socialised.

If leaving your pet at home alone, you need to ensure that it has access to water and shade as well as some form of entertainment to keep it occupied during your absence.



Cats are natural hunters and like to stalk and pounce on smaller animals, particularly when nocturnal animals are active. They also like to socialise predominantly at night and a group of cats can be a very noisy gathering.

Cats and Wildlife
If you own a cat, we encourage you to keep it in at night to reduce the chances of it hunting wildlife. Staying in at night also significantly reduces the opportunity for cats to fight, disturb the peace of the community and get injured.

Causing Nuisance
Council receives many complaints about cats, from defecating in neighbours gardens to wandering into other people’s homes.

In accordance with the Companion Animals Act 1998 a cat can be declared to be a nuisance if it persistently disturbs the peace of the neighbourhood, damages property outside the property at which it is kept, or if it is continually found in wildlife protection areas.

Once declared to be a nuisance cat, fines will apply to any further disturbances or damage caused.



Dogs in Public Places 
At all times dogs must be on a leash when in public areas unless it is stipulated as a “Leash Free Area”. There are no roads or road related areas or footpaths in the Bellingen local government area that are leash free. So a person cannot, for example, legally walk a dog to a leash free park without the dog being on a lead and under the control of a competent person who is holding the lead.

There are a number of areas in which dogs are totally prohibited, these include schools, within ten meters of any playgrounds and public bathing areas.

Most issues raised with Council regarding companion animals concern dogs. The complaints are usually because an owner does not know about the laws relating to dog ownership.

Controlling your Dog
The Companion Animals Act states that no person can control more than four dogs at the one time.

Even professional dog walkers must not have more than four dogs with them at the one time. If you have more than four dogs with you at one time you may be fined.

When on a leash, your dog must not be allowed to jump at a person or animal. Your dog is not considered to be under effective control when it is tied to a fixed object such as a table at a cafe or a street sign as it can still jump at or attack passing people or animals.

In off-leash areas, you are still required to have effective control over your dog. Remember, people have different understandings of what is safe play. What you consider boisterous play may be considered an attack by another owner.

Wearing a Collar and Tag
Did you know Council can fine dog owners $165 if they do not put a collar and tag on their pet?

Wearing a collar and tag, along with microchipping and registering your pet, are the best ways to ensure lost animals can be reunited with their owners. Lost dogs wearing a collar and tag are more easily reunited with their owners. Especially since people often forget to update their pet’s registration and microchipping details when they move house or change phone numbers.

The Companion Animals Act 1998 sets out the rules for collar and tags. These include the fact the tag must show your dog’s name and your phone number or address.

Cleaning up After your Dog
If a dog defecates in a public place or on someone else’s property, the person in control of the dog must IMMEDIATELY remove the faeces and dispose of it properly. Penalties apply for failing to immediately remove faeces

Dogs like to bark, however, the sound of barking can be disturbing to other people and Council receives regular complaints about this. In order to minimise barking, you should ensure there is enough room for your pet to move and play, and enough water and food. There are many reasons why dogs bark so it is important to ensure you understand your dog’s behaviour and the triggers are managed and your dog is appropriately trained.

For more information regarding curbing your dogs barking or reporting nuisance barking/noise please refer to Councils Barking Dogs Information Guide.

Leash Free Areas
In 1998 Council resolved to establish three leash free areas in the Shire at the following locations:

  • 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

See aerial photos for download


For general enquiries of further information you can contact Council on 6655 7300 between 8.30am and 4.30 pm Monday to Friday or by emailing