Reuniting lost pets legislation

The Domestic Animals Amendment (Reuniting Pets and Other Matters) Bill 2021 (RP Bill) passed the Victorian Parliament on 24 February 2022. The RP Bill introduced a range of changes to the Domestic Animals Act 1994 (DA Act). The changes deliver the Victorian Government’s election commitment to allow participating vets and registered animal shelters (shelters) to directly reunite lost cats and dogs (herein referred to as pets) with their owners.

Under the amended DA Act, shelters and participating vets will be able to reunite lost pets with their owners more efficiently and without the need for a written agreement with local council under section 84Y of the DA Act.

Shelters and participating vets without an existing 84Y agreement will be required to report certain data on the cats and dogs they reunite to their local council. This will ensure council, as the primary regulators for domestic animal management, maintain appropriate and necessary oversight of dog and cat movements in their municipality.

Information will assist councils to follow up any compliance matters, such as supporting owners to keep dogs contained to the property or ensuring pets are appropriately registered. This helps maintain public safety, equity, accountability and transparency.

If a vet is unable to provide lost pet reunification services, they do not have to take the lost pet and may refer members of the public to other participating vets, shelters, or to council.

Under certain circumstances, a vet or shelter must relinquish a lost pet to local council, to protect public safety and animal welfare. This includes situations where an animal is declared dangerous, is suspected to have been involved in a dog attack or the owner is not identifiable.

This reform follows a public consultation process on the laws and processes relating to pet reunification, where community and stakeholder feedback has informed design of the final changes.

Pet owners are encouraged to keep their contact details current with their local council and microchip registry, to ensure pets are returned to the lawful owner in the event they become lost or injured. This can be done by visiting petaddress.com.au.

The new laws will come into effect by 1 October 2022.

Other matters

The RP Act makes additional legislative amendments to improve administration of the DA Act. Key changes include:

  • improving administration of the Commercial Dog Breeder scheme and Pet Exchange Register
  • clarifying existing Authorised Officer inspection powers, including facilitation of remote compliance functions
  • confirming that non-racing greyhounds, walked on a lead outside the owner’s property, do not require a muzzle
  • clarifying definitions and court banning order powers.

This page will be updated shortly with more detailed information on the specific changes and new laws.

Page last updated: 24 Feb 2022