Wandering Dogs / Dogs at Large

Dog owners are required to confine their dogs to their property.

Reasons to confine your dog

A dog of any size, breed or temperament can become aggressive when defending its territory, when it is scared, or when it is in an unknown situation. A dog’s behaviour can be very different when its owner is not with them. Confining your dog to your property:

  • ensures your dog will be safe from traffic injuries
  • ensures your dog will not become involved in fights with other dogs
  • prevents your dog from wandering and becoming lost
  • prevents legal action from being commenced as it is a legal requirement to confine your dog to your property
  • prevents costly legal and veterinary bills
  • prevents dog attacks as your dog is safe in its backyard.

Most dog attacks that occur in public places happen on the footpath or road in front of the attacking dog's property. Confining dogs to their own properties greatly assists in preventing dog attacks in public places. A dog attack situation can be very distressing for all involved particularly if the victim is a child or someone is badly injured.

Under the Domestic Animals Act 1994, all dog owners must securely confine their dogs to their property. This means the dog's yard or enclosure must have a closed gate and an escape-proof fence that your dog cannot jump, get under or through. You must be able to prevent your dog from getting any part of its body through your gates or fencing, even if it doesn't actually leave your property.

The best area to confine your dog is in your backyard. Legally, visitors must have safe access to your front door, without being stopped by your dog.

Magistrates have the power to require owners of pets that have escaped to carry out works to ensure this does not happen again. To make sure your dog is properly confined, keep it in the backyard behind a locked gate that cannot be opened by visitors, or by strong winds.

If your dog rushes at or chases someone, you could be fined, and Council can declare your dog to be a 'menacing dog'. This means you will have to walk your dog on a leash and have it muzzled in public.

If you do not comply with these requirements, Council can then declare your dog to be a 'dangerous dog'. There are very strict controls on the housing, exercise and ownership of dangerous dogs.

The owner of a dog is liable if the dog attacks a person or animal:

  • outside the owner's property
  • if someone is trying to get to your front door
  • if someone has been invited onto your property.

If a dog attacks a person or animal, Council may issue infringements and/or commence prosecution in the Magistrates Court. If convicted, owners can face substantial fines and be required to pay damages, which may potentially be thousands of dollars. The Magistrate may order the dog to be destroyed or be declared a ‘dangerous dog’.

Additional laws apply to owners of restricted breed, dangerous, guard, menacing or attack-trained dogs. Owners of these types of dogs can be jailed for up to 10 years if their dog kills someone, or for up to 5 years if their dog endangers someone's life.

Socialisation and exercise

Confinement without exercise and socialisation can lead to boredom, health issues or nuisance behaviour.

For more information and tips on ensuring your dog is adequately socialised and exercised, please visit the Agriculture Victoria website.

Ask Council about wandering dogs

For more information on wandering dogs or to report a wandering dog, please contact Council (03) 5832 9700.