Prohibited procedures on dogs

In Victoria, prohibited procedures relating to dogs are ear cropping, debarking and tail docking.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (the Act) protects the welfare of all animals in Victoria.

Legislation summary

Prohibited procedures relating to dogs are:

  • ear cropping
  • debarking
  • tail docking.

Prohibited procedures can only be performed in Victoria by a registered veterinary practitioner for therapeutic reasons or, in the case of debarking, in line with the Code of Practice for the Debarking of Dogs.

It is an offence for any other person to conduct a prohibited procedure on an animal.

In addition, the owner or person in charge of an animal:

  • must not allow a prohibited procedure to be conducted on an animal, and
  • cannot show or exhibit an animal, or allow an animal to be shown or exhibited, where the animal has had a prohibited procedure conducted illegally on it.

Provisions have been built into the offence for showing or exhibiting an animal to take into consideration animals brought in from other Australian states and territories or imported animals that have had the procedure legally performed.

However, these provisions do not allow an animal born or residing in Victoria to be taken into another state or territory to have a prohibited procedure conducted on them and then be brought back into Victoria and shown or exhibited.

Further information and details of these provisions are detailed in this section.

Definition of 'person in charge'

'Person in charge of' in relation to an animal includes:

  • a person who has the animal in their possession or custody, or under the person's care, control or supervision, and
  • any employee or agent of the owner of the animal if a person referred to in the preceding point is bound to comply with the directions of that employee or agent in respect of the animal.

When debarking can be carried out

Debarking of dogs can only be carried out in accordance with the Code of Practice for the Debarking of Dogs and the procedure must be conducted by a registered veterinary practitioner.

A dog may only be debarked if it is creating a public nuisance due to persistent barking that other reasonable methods have not been able to resolve. You must read the entire code of practice and follow its requirements before the procedure is undertaken.

An owner who intends to have a dog debarked because it is creating a public nuisance must first complete a Statutory Declaration to the effect that the dog is a public nuisance because of its persistent barking and that every reasonable effort has been made to discourage the dog from barking by:

  • considerate care
  • training
  • management.

The owner is to further declare that the only alternative to debarking the dog is to have it destroyed.

The owner must also obtain, from the Chief Executive Officer (or delegate) of the Council of the Municipal District in which the dog is registered, a written declaration (see code appendix for declaration) that certifies that:

  • there have been written complaints from two or more neighbouring residences or, in isolated areas, two written complaints from the same residence, submitted to the Municipal offices, and
  • an authorised officer of the Municipality has investigated the complaints and has confirmed that reasonable efforts by the owner have failed to discourage the dog from persistently barking.

The registered veterinary practitioner who is to perform the debarking operation is required to notify Animal Welfare Victoria, using this declaration, within 7 days of conducting the procedure.

Tail docking or ear cropping

Tail docking or ear cropping can only be carried out in Victoria by a registered veterinary practitioner for therapeutic reasons (for the health or welfare of the animal).

Docking (in relation to the tail of a dog) means the amputation, removal or shortening of the tail, other than the shortening of the tail hairs.

Dogs brought in from interstate or overseas

The dog cannot have resided in Victoria before the procedure was done in another jurisdiction.

A dog that is already docked, debarked or ear cropped and then brought in from interstate or overseas is able to be shown:

  • if the dog was not born, or has not previously resided in Victoria, and
  • provided the procedure was done in line with the legislation of the jurisdiction (country/state/territory) in which the procedure was carried out.

Dogs from interstate

If the procedure was carried out on the dog in Australia, a veterinary certificate stating that the procedure was done in line with the law of the relevant jurisdiction is required before the animal can be shown.

Dogs from overseas

In relation to imported dogs, the importation or supporting documentation needs to show that the procedure was done prior to importation and that it was done legally according to the laws of the jurisdiction in which the procedure was carried out.

Dogs taken interstate for a procedure prohibited in Victoria

You cannot take a dog out of Victoria to have a procedure prohibited in Victoria done and then show or exhibit the dog.

The exemption only applies for dogs that live outside of Victoria and are not, or have not previously, resided in Victoria.

Many other states also regulate these procedures. By taking a dog interstate to avoid Victorian laws you can actually commit an offence in another state — as well as be unable to show or exhibit the dog in Victoria.

Penalties associated with these offences

Upon being found guilty, fines of up to 250 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment apply if:

  • a person (other than a vet) conducts a prohibited procedure on an animal
  • if a vet conducts a prohibited procedure where it is not considered reasonably necessary for therapeutic purposes (or for debarking done in accordance with the relevant code).

If a person in charge of an animal allows a prohibited procedure (such as docking) to be done on the animal (by another person) fines of up to 250 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment apply.

If a person in Victoria shows or exhibits a dog that was illegally tail docked, debarked or ear cropped, a penalty up to 20 penalty units applies.

These penalties apply to any prohibited procedure that is carried out.

Page last updated: 24 Jun 2020