How you’re affected by major changes to SA’s dog and cat laws

For the first time in more than two decades, significant changes have been made to South Australia’s dog and cat management laws.

If you are among the thousands of South Australians who own or breed dogs or cats, then these laws affect you from July 1, 2018.

The Dog and Cat Management Act 1995 amendments include mandatory microchipping for all dogs and cats by three months of age, a new dog and cat breeder registration system, new dog registration categories and increased penalties for people who allow their dogs to wander or attack.

These laws are now in place to help improve the welfare of dogs and cats in South Australia.

The Act and its laws are enforced by the Dog and Cat Management Board and your local council. Please contact them if you have any questions or concerns.

All cats and dogs born after July 1, 2018 must be desexed

Desexing drastically helps reduce the number of unwanted dogs and cats that end up in animal shelters, many of which are the result of unplanned breeding.

All cats and dogs born after July 1, 2018 must now be desexed by six months of age. Dogs and cats born before that date are not legally required to be desexed, but owners are encouraged to do so.

As an extra incentive, South Australian councils now offer a 50% rebate on annual registration fees to owners of desexed and microchipped dogs (see below for more details.)

Owners who buy or are given un-desexed puppies and kittens have a legal responsibility to desex their new pet by six months of age.

For more information about desexing your animal, see RSPCA’s Knowledgebase.

All cats and dogs in South Australia must now be microchipped

Microchipping is now mandatory across South Australia, with all dogs and cats legally required to be microchipped by three months of age or within 28 days of acquiring the animal.

Microchipping is quick and inexpensive. It is a small procedure, like getting an injection, and it permanently identifies your animal should they ever become lost or wander. You must register your cat or dog’s microchip number with the new state-based Dogs and Cats Online system, which is free to use.

If your pet is already registered with one of the national systems (such as Pet Chip RegistryCentral Animal RecordsPetsafe and HomeSafeID) you will also need to enter this microchip number into South Australia’s Dog and Cats Online system.

Keeping your contact details up-to-date is hugely important – ensure you update the system whenever you move house or change phone number.

All veterinarians offer microchipping, with many offering discounted rates to concession cardholders. Chipblitz also offers regular $10 microchipping days across South Australia.

New registration tags a must for all dogs in South Australia

Dog registration continues to be mandatory in South Australia – but dog registration numbers are now permanent. Instead of receiving different coloured plastic tags each year, you’ll be mailed a once-off grey disc for your dog’s collar.

This change will reduce plastic waste, streamline pet registration, and ensures your dog’s registration number remains the same, even if you move to a different council area.

Each council decides their area’s annual dog registration fee, with most charging around $70.  All revenue goes towards local dog and cat management strategies, such as new dog parks and dog safety education.

If your dog is older than three months, you have 14 days to register your pooch.

New 50% registration rebates for desexed and microchipped dogs

Local councils are now required to set two mandatory registration fee categories – ‘standard’ and ‘non-standard’ dogs.

The ‘standard’ classification applies to any dog that is both microchipped and desexed. Owners of such dogs automatically receive a 50% rebate on their dog’s registration fee.

The ‘non-standard’ category applies to dogs that are not desexed and microchipped, with owners required to pay the full registration fee. The 50% rebate will not be available until the animal is both microchipped and desexed.

Dog and cat breeders must now apply for registration

All dog and cat breeders must now register with South Australia’s Dog and Cat Management Board (DCMB) as a certified breeder. This new law, enforced from July 1, 2018, aims to eliminate profit-driven kitten and puppy farms, where animals are kept in cramped conditions with little regard for their welfare.

You must register as a breeder if you have, or are responsible for, a dog or cat that has puppies/kittens that you intend to sell – even if you only ever plan on breeding one litter. ‘Selling’ also includes any ‘barter’ or ‘exchange’. So, for example, if you give away a puppy but require the purchaser to pay for desexing costs, this would still be breeding for sale and you would need to register as a breeder. These new laws also apply to working dogs and breeders of racing greyhounds. 

Registration as a breeder automatically exempts your dog or cat from the requirement to be desexed.

Once registered, you will be issued with a Breeder Registration Number (BRN). Registration must be renewed annually in order to continue breeding dogs or cats. You must include your BRN in any advertisement (including online advertisements) for the sale of any dog or cat you breed. The BRN must also be provided to the purchaser, at the point of sale.

Exemptions from the breeding registration requirement only applies to individuals who do not receive payment of any kind in exchange for an animal. So you do not need to register if you don’t make money from your dogs or cats, but rather give them away without asking for anything in return. (Note, though, that all dogs and cats born after July 1, 2018 must be desexed.)

Frequently asked questions about the new breeding laws:

My dog/cat is pregnant by accident – an unplanned litter. Am I considered a breeder?

Mistakes happen sometimes! If you find yourself with unwanted puppies or kittens, then it’s important to take good care of them until they are old enough (at least eight weeks old) to go to new homes. Make sure whomever you give or sell them to understands their responsibilities as pet owners – not everyone has the time, money, temperament or environment to care for animals properly. (You would have to register as a breeder with the Dog and Cat Management Board if you decide to sell the puppies or kittens.)

If you can’t find suitable homes, then we recommend that you take them to a reputable shelter, such as one of RSPCA South Australia’s shelters. And please get your pet desexed so it doesn’t happen again!

Can I still sell my puppies/kittens online, privately or in pet shops?

Yes, so long as you are a registered breeder with the Dog and Cat Management Board and provide the required details to the buyer, including current contact details and your Breeder Registration Number.

Dogs and cats can still be sold through pet shops, providing the pet shops comply with the South Australian Standards and Guidelines for Breeding and Trading Companion Animals 2017, as well as South Australia’s Animal Welfare Act 1985.

As with other sellers, pet shops must include a Breeder Registration Number in all of their advertisements and must provide the purchaser of any dog or cat with a BRN. If they sell a dog or cat without providing this BRN, the pet shop will commit an offence.

Is there a penalty if I sell puppies or kittens without being registered as a breeder?

Yes. It is an offence if you fail to register as a breeder and you sell or advertise puppies or kittens for sale that have been born on or after 1 July 2018.

What do these laws mean for breeders of working livestock dogs?

Primary producers who breed working livestock dogs are entitled to keep their dogs entire. However, they must still register as breeders.

A working livestock dog means a dog usually kept or proposed to be kept on rural land by an owner who is a primary producer, or a person engaged or employed by a primary producer. The definition does not include a breed, just the purposes for which the dog is kept.

The dog is to be kept primarily for the purpose of droving, protecting, tending, or working stock, or is being trained in droving, protecting, tending, or working stock. This includes dogs kept for guarding livestock on rural land, but not guard dogs kept for property protection on rural land.

Primary producers who breed working livestock dogs are not exempt from the breeding registration laws and are still required to register as breeders.

If the dog will no longer be used as a working livestock dog, the desexing exemption will end and the owner (whether the breeder or a subsequent purchaser) must desex the dog.

Do I need to register if I’m already a breeder association member, or if I’m breeding non-pedigree pets?

Yes, you will still need to register as a breeder with the Dog and Cat Management Board, even if you’re already a member of a breeder association, such as Dogs SA or the Feline Association SA. The breeder register also applies to breeders of all dogs and cats, not just pedigrees.

Can a child register as a breeder?

No. Children under 18 may not register as a breeder. In these circumstances the parent or guardian of the child must register as a breeder.

Are there mandatory breeder standards?

Yes. The South Australian Standards and Guidelines for Breeding and Trading Companion Animals 2017 are legally enforceable minimum standards for the breeding, trading and supply of companion animals. (Guidelines are the recommended practise for achieving good animal welfare outcomes. Some guidelines provide recommendations for complying with a standard.)

What should I do if I think someone is breaching these new laws?

You can report an unregistered breeder or a person supplying a puppy or kitten without a Breeder Registration Number to your local council. If no details about location are known (for example, an advertisement only includes a mobile phone number), you can make your report to the Dog and Cat Management Board.

If you have animal welfare concerns in relation to any breeder (registered or not), you can call RSPCA South Australia’s 24-hour hotline on 1300 477 722.

Potential pet owners must still take care when choosing breeders

The breeder registration laws are designed to improve animal welfare standards and reduce the operation of illegal puppy farms in South Australia.

If you are looking to purchase a puppy or kitten from an independent breeder, your local council can confirm if the individual you are purchasing the animal from is a registered breeder. The Dog and Cat Management Board is also developing an online database that will enable the public to identify and contact dog and cat breeders.

However, the new register will list all South Australian breeders, the good and (potentially) the bad. This will ensure that council officers and RSPCA South Australia know where all breeders are located, so possible law breaches can be investigated. Consequently, registration as a breeder will not be a guarantee of quality.

Under the new registration system, breeders must comply with the new SA Standards and Guidelines. Unfortunately, due to insufficient resources to regularly inspect all dog breeding facilities, there have been incidents interstate of puppy farms operated by registered breeders.

We recommend you read RSPCA’s Smart Puppy Buyer’s Guide before going in search of your new furry friend so you can more easily identify reputable breeders.

Council officers have increased powers to investigate animal welfare

Council officers have increased powers to investigate dog and cat offences from July 1, 2018. Officers will have new powers to take photographs or videos, seize evidence and compel suspects to provide their name, contact details and other information.

Fines and expiations for dog and cat owners who flout the rules will also increase.

The Act and its laws are enforced by the Dog and Cat Management Board and your local council. Please contact them if you have any questions or concerns.