Owning a menacing dog
Under the Domestic Animals Act 1994 (DA Act), local councils in Victoria may declare a dog to be a menacing dog if:
- the dog causes a non serious bite injury to a person or animal, or
- if it rushes at or chases a person.
'Rush at' means that the dog has approached a person within 3 metres, displaying aggressive behaviour such as:
- raising the hackles.
A magistrate can also order a council to declare a dog to be a menacing dog, if the owner has been found guilty in court for offences relating to their dog rushing at or chasing a person.
Menacing dogs must not be confused with dangerous dogs or restricted breed dogs, as these have a different set of housing and ownership requirements under the DA Act.
The owner of a declared menacing dog must comply with requirements to prevent the dog from attacking (or causing serious injury) in future. A menacing dog declaration can be upgraded to a dangerous dog declaration if the owner has been issued with two infringement notices for failed to comply with requirements such as leashing or muzzling their dog in public.
A menacing dog declaration can be revoked by local council if the owner takes action to remedy the reasons for the dog rushing at or chasing a person. Any action taken by the owner must satisfy the local council that an incident will not be repeated.
If an owner does not agree with the declaration, the owner may appeal council's declaration of a menacing dog through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal within 28 days of the declaration.
Penalties for failing to comply with menacing dog laws
Owners can be jailed for up to 10 years, or for up to 5 years if their declared dog endangers someone's life, under the Crimes Act 1958.
This applies to owners of:
- attack trained dogs
- declared dangerous dogs
- declared menacing dogs
- restricted breed dogs (both registered and unregistered)
- guard dogs.
Penalties can be imposed on owners for failing to comply with the keeping requirements for a menacing dog in relation to:
- notification if there is a change of ownership, where the dog is housed or the dog is missing
- being kept on a lead and muzzled when off their owner’s property.
Where the owner of a dog is under the age of 18 years, the parent or guardian of that owner will be deemed the legal owner of the dog and subject to any penalties or prosecutions.
The owner of a menacing dog must ensure that the dog is implanted with an International Standards Organisation (known as 'ISO') compliant microchip in line with the Domestic Animals Regulations 2015. Please note that any new registration of a dog with local council requires the dog to be microchipped.
The microchip identification number must be supplied to the local council in which the dog is registered within 7 days of the dog being declared a menacing dog.
When declaring a dog to be a menacing dog, council may include a requirement for the dog to be:
- muzzled when outside the owner's premises
- under effective control of a person by means of a chain, cord or leash whenever it is outside the owner's premises.
Notification to council
The owner of a menacing dog must notify the council in which the dog is kept within 24 hours if:
- the dog goes missing
- the dog rushes at or chases a person
- the ownership of the dog changes
- the owner's address changes or the place where the dog is kept changes. If there is a change in the municipality where a dangerous, menacing or restricted breed dog is kept, owners must inform both the Council of the municipal district in which the dog was previously kept and the Council of the municipal district in which the dog is being kept within 24 hours of the change.
For more information relating to menacing dog declarations, please contact your local council, or the Customer Service Centre on 136 186.