Pet rehoming is a growth sector in Victoria, and is essential to helping reduce the number of animals in the State’s pound and shelter system.
The groups and individuals who make up the animal rehoming sector (i.e. Community Foster Care Networks (CFCNs), rescue groups, foster carers) provide valuable assistance to Victoria’s shelters and pounds by supporting the rehabilitation and rehoming of dogs and cats. In doing so, these groups help to reduce the number of animals euthanised.
Many in the rehoming sector also take dogs and cats directly surrendered by owners no longer willing or able to care for an animal. They work to find suitable homes for these pets and undertake rehabilitation activities to support successful rehoming outcomes.
Pet rehoming sector reform
The Government established the Taskforce on Rehoming Pets (the Taskforce) to provide recommendations on how to improve and better support rehoming pathways for dogs and cats in Victoria, including those used in medical research.
In December 2021, the Taskforce provided its final report and recommendations. To read more about the Government’s plan to implement pet rehoming reforms, please read the Victorian Government’s response to the Taskforce’s report.
Community foster care networks (CFCNs)
CFCNs coordinate and may provide temporary care for dogs and cats from shelters and pounds, or for surrendered animals, in people’s homes (private residential premises). A CFCN seeks permanent housing for the dogs or cats in its care.
Most CFCNs work with a network of foster carers to enable the CFCN to rehabilitate and rehome more animals. A CFCN could be any size from small through to very large and may be operating with a single person or as a complex organisation involving many people.
A CFCN is not considered a Domestic Animal Business (Animal Shelter), as the number of animals kept on one property is limited to the number of animals allowed within council and planning requirements. Most councils in Victoria limit the number of cats and dogs that can be kept on any one property.
A foster carer is a person who undertakes temporary care of an individual animal or special group of animals for the purpose of giving the animals care until they can be rehomed. Most foster care takes place in a person's home, which enables specific care and treatment.
Foster carers have an important role in providing rehabilitation and care for animals in an environment outside a pound or shelter, ensuring that the animals have the best chance at being rehomed.
There is no limit to the period of time an animal may be fostered. However, foster carers must comply with council and planning laws regarding the number and confinement of animals on their property.
It is important to remember that, in all cases, the foster carer must ensure that the dog or cat is registered with the local council for the duration of its stay. Victorian councils can issue a monetary fine to the carer of any unregistered dog or cat and also have the power to seize any unregistered animal.
Foster Carer Registration Scheme
Individual foster carers may apply to their local council to become a registered foster carer as part of a voluntary scheme. Council cannot force a foster carer to enrol in the scheme as it is not mandatory.
Registration with the scheme is valid for one year and council may set a registration fee. Foster carers who choose to enrol in the scheme receive:
- a reduced registration rate of approximately $8 for each dog and $8 for each cat they foster during the first 12 months the animal is in their care
- the ability to use pet shops as a means of providing additional community exposure to dogs six months of age or older, and cats eight weeks of age or older.
- Foster Carer Registration Scheme factsheet (PDF - 143.6 KB)
- Foster Carer Registration Scheme factsheet (WORD - 1.1 MB)
Every person who works with animals has an obligation to know what laws they must abide by, for both the welfare of the animal and the person caring for that animal. The legislative framework in Victoria consists of Acts, Regulations, Codes of Practice and Council Local Laws.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTA) seeks to protect animals from neglect and cruelty and sets out offences for failing to properly care and provide for a dog or cat, including the provision of:
- proper and sufficient food
- vet treatment.
It also covers offences such as:
- deliberate cruelty
- ill treatment
- causing unnecessary pain or suffering
- abandonment of cats and dogs
- transport of dogs on moving vehicles.
The Domestic Animal Act 1994 (the Act) seeks to protect the community from animals becoming a nuisance or danger and sets out requirements for keeping cats and dogs. The following summary applies to CFCNs and foster carers:
- Every dog and cat over 3 months old must be registered with the council in which they are located.
- Every dog and cat must be microchipped to be registered with council.
- Every dog and cat must wear their council registration tag when outside the property in which they are kept.
- Dogs must be adequately confined to the house or yard and must not be allowed to stray.
- Dogs and cats must not be allowed to cause nuisance (for example, excess barking).
- Owners of dogs and cats must be at least 18 years old.
In addition to these legislative obligations, there are local government laws that regulate the way in which dogs and cats are kept. The following summary applies to CFCNs and foster carers:
- Limits on numbers of dogs or cats that may be kept on a property without an excess animal permit.
- Mandatory de-sexing orders for dogs and cats in some local government areas.
- Cat curfews (keeping cats indoors at night – house, enclosure, shed or garage) to protect native wildlife.
- Leashing requirements for dogs in public places.
- Collection of dog faeces in public places.
It is the responsibility of the person keeping a dog or a cat to know what their council allows.
Section 84Y agreements
In Victoria, dogs and cats can be captured and held by local councils for a range of reasons under the Domestic Animals Act 1994 (the Act). For instance, a dog may have escaped confinement and be roaming in the community, presenting a potential danger to itself or others. Any person who captures a roaming animal under section 84 of the Act must provide the animal to a council authorised officer or to a person or organisation with an 84Y agreement. This is to ensure the animal has the best chance of being reunited with its owner as well as managing any immediate animal welfare needs.
Section 84Y of the Act enables local councils to make written agreements with a ‘person or body’, namely shelters, veterinary practices, CFCNs and foster carers, to support the capture, holding, rehoming or disposal of dogs and cats. That is, 84Y agreements allow certain people and organisations other than local councils to receive and manage lost pets and/or stray animals.
Councils can tailor agreements to suit their operational and local community needs. Different types of section 84Y agreements exist to cover a range of situations, and agreements can include some or all of the activities outlined under section 84Y of the Act.
An 84Y agreement may also authorise a person or organisation to give a dog or cat to:
- a CFCN for rehoming (under clause 84Y(ca)), on the condition that the dog or cat is desexed and microchipped before ownership is transferred to the CFCN
- an animal shelter (under clause 84Y(cb)).
84Y agreements are exclusively held between a person or organisation and the local council. Any other written contracts between the agreement holder and another person or organisation, such as a CFCN or foster carer, is separate and in addition to an 84Y agreement.
Section 84Y agreements between a local council and a CFCN usually focus on the 84Y(c) clause for selling and/or rehoming a dog or cat that has been captured. Where a dog or cat comes directly to a CFCN from a local council under an 84Y agreement, it should be desexed and microchipped prior to ownership transferring to the CFCN, as per the Code of Practice for the Management of Dogs and Cats in Shelters and Pounds. Council may use an 84Y agreement to address certain animal care and management requirements. Any agreement with a CFCN must have provisions in place to ensure the animal is desexed and microchipped prior to rehoming.
If a person or organisation has an 84Y agreement with council and is not a registered domestic animal business (DAB), they will need to self-enrol on the Pet Exchange Register (PER) to obtain a source number before microchipping and/or advertising a dog or cat for sale/rehoming. Registration for a source number may be completed on the Pet Exchange Register.
As always, foster carers are limited to caring for the number of animals permitted by their local council.
In response to feedback received during the Reuniting Pets consultation process, Animal Welfare Victoria has developed the 84Y Agreements Guidance document to assist individuals or organisations seeking to establish such an agreement.
For further information on the Reuniting Pets review, please visit the Engage Victoria website.