This website is for use by legal professionals (lawyers and law practices) only. If the information is used incorrectly, you could risk losing money or your legal rights. If you are a member of the public looking for free advice about your legal problems please visit legalaid.vic.gov.au, or contact our Legal Help advice line on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6 pm. 

If you decide to use or rely on the information or make decisions based on the information in this website (which VLA does not recommend) VLA is not liable to you or any third party in any way for any loss, damage, costs or expenses you or they may suffer or incur as a result.

Breeding, fostering and sale of pets

Information about the law for breeding dogs and cats in Victoria.

The breeding and sale of dogs and cats and the registration of dog and cat foster carers is regulated by the Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic). The Act was amended on 10 April 2018 to increase protection for vulnerable animals who are bred largely unregulated in 'puppy farms'. Changes include restrictions on the animals that can be sold in pet shops, requirements for permits to sell some pets, requirement for people who advertise to sell or give away of dogs and cats to include unique microchip and source numbers in their advertisement, registration of foster carers and tighter regulation and restriction on the size of businesses that breed dogs and cats.

Foster carers or animal shelters?

Foster carers are people who temporarily care for stray, abandoned or unwanted dogs or cats for the purpose of finding a new home for these animals. This care must be given in premises which house no more than 5 adult dogs or cats or a mixture of 5 dogs and cats. (A fertile female and their litter are counted as one animal until the pups or kittens are 8 weeks old).

Animal shelters are organisations that provide temporary care for unwanted dogs and cats in larger numbers than foster carers.

See s. 3—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Health checks

Breeding females are to be checked by a vet before they are mated. A limit of the number of litters a dog can have over a lifetime has been restricted to 5.

Limiting the number of breeding dogs

All new breeding businesses that are registered on or after 10 April 2017 must have no more than 10 fertile females. By 10 April 2020 all existing domestic animal breeding businesses must have reduced the number of fertile female dogs to 10.

The council will not register another animal business if the applicant already has an existing domestic animal breeding business on the same property unless they have approval as a commercial dog breeder.

Penalty

From 10 April 2018 it is an offence for the owner of a breeding domestic animal business to acquire an additional fertile female dog, if they already have 10 breeding females.

This does not apply to an animal business that holds a commercial dog breeder approval.

The maximum penalty is 164 penalty units for an individual or 600 penalty units for a business.

Note: This is a transitional offence to force dog breeders to reduce their numbers in preparation for the new law that will apply by 10 April 2020. It will be repealed on that date and a new offence will come into operation to replace it.

See ss. 45A, 54A, 54B—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

What is a domestic animal business?

A domestic animal business is defined as:

  • an animal shelter, council pound or pet shop
  • enterprise that carries out breeding of 3 or more female dogs to sell
  • enterprise that carries out breeding of 3 or more female cats to sell
  • enterprise that boards or trains dogs for a profit, or
  • enterprise that rears or keeps dogs for profit or sale or for exchange of services.

Exemptions

Greyhound breeders and farmers (whose dogs are primarily kept as farm working dogs) are exempted from this definition. People who are classified as recreational breeders and microbreeders are also excluded from this definition.

See s. 3—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Who is a recreational breeder?

A recreational breeder is someone who breeds dogs for sale who is a member of an applicable organisation (such as Dogs Victoria) who has no more than 10 fertile female dogs or cats. The Minister may approve various organisations by putting a notice in the Victorian Government Gazette.

See ss. 3, 5A, 5B—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

What is a microbreeder?

A microbreeder is a person who breeds dogs or cats to sell who is not a member of an applicable organisation and who has no more than 2 fertile female dogs.

See s. 5—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Who can be a commercial breeder?

The minister may approve an application to become a commercial breeder. They can only do this on the recommendation of the Chief Veterinary officer. The veterinary officer may ask the council to enter, search and investigate the business and issue a report. The vet must give reasons for their decision to either recommend ore reject the application. The approval will be cancelled if the business is transferred to another owner.

See ss. 58AA, 58AC, 58AB, 58AD, 58AE, 58AH—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Pet exchange register

The department keeps a register of information relating to:

  • domestic animal businesses
  • registered foster carers
  • recreational breeders
  • microbreeders and others who sell dogs and cats.

The department must issue source numbers to organisations or bodies who are classified as domestic animal businesses and registered foster carers. They may also issue source numbers to any other organisations who intend to advertise to sell or give away dogs or cats.

See Part 5C—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and Animal welfare—Pet exchange register(opens in a new window)

Offence to advertise without a source number

It is an offence for a person to advertise to sell or to give away a dog or cat unless the advertisement includes their source number and the animal's unique microchip number (or written veterinary advice to exempt them from having a microchip).

The maximum penalty for failing to provide a source number and microchip number (or exemption) is 5 penalty units.

See s. 12B—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and Animal welfare—Pet exchange register(opens in a new window)

Offence publish advertisement

It is also an offence to publish an advertisement of a dog or cat for sale without including the microchip (or exemption) and source number.

The maximum penalty for a person is 5 penalty units or 20 penalty units for an organisation.

See ss. 12B, 12C, 12D—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and Value of penalty units.

Restricting mixed businesses

Councils have broad powers to refuse to register or renew registration, transfer registration or may suspend or revoke registration of domestic animal business premises. The Act prevents registration of an animal business that is both for breeding purposes and a pound or pet shop. A relevant person (proprietor, business operator or registration applicant) cannot be involved in more than one kind of domestic animal business. That is, they may only be involved in an animal shelter, or petshop, or as breeder, but not more than one kind.

The purpose of this is to prevent the co-registration of different categories of domestic animal business premises, which could potentially facilitate the illegal sale of puppies or kittens into pet shops by breeders.

The council may restrict business registration if the proprietor has been found guilty of an offence under the Domestic Animals Act 1997 or under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (or by corresponding laws interstate).

See ss. 54, 54A—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Selling or giving animals away

Domestic animal businesses and foster carers who sell or give away animals that are not registered must notify the council where the animal should be registered about the sale, describing the animal and giving the name and address of the new owner and the animal's microchip. They have 7 days to do this. It is an offence not to do this.

Penalty

The maximum penalty for failing to notify the council is 3 penalty units.

See s. 13—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Pet shop restrictions

There is tighter regulation of sale of animals through pet shops. This is to remove the opportunity for pet shops to stock and sell illegally bred animals. Pet shops are only permitted to sell or give away animals that come from an approved source. An approved source is a registered animal shelter, pound or foster carer. It is also an offence to try to sell, give or provide a dog or cat to a pet shop that is not from an approved source.

Penalties

The maximum penalty for selling, giving away or acting as an agent for to sell an animal that is not from an approved source is 164 penalty units for a person or 600 penalty units for a business.

See ss. 63AAB, 63AAC—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Foster Carer restrictions

Foster carers must be registered by the council to operate.

It is unlawful for a foster carer to sell, give away or provide a dog or cat to a pet shop if it is younger than:

  • 6 months old for a dog
  • 8 weeks old for a cat.

Pet shop owners must not accept animals from a foster carer if they are younger than this.

Penalties

The maximum penalty is 164 penalty units for a person or 600 penalty units for a business.

See ss. 63AAD, 68C—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Selling to a pound is unlawful

It is an offence to sell a dog or a cat to an animal shelter or pound.

Penalty

The maximum penalty is 164 penalty units for a person or 600 penalty units for a business.

See 63AAE—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Permit required to sell some animals

There are restrictions on the sale of some domestic animals if the seller is not:

  • registered as a domestic animal business
  • selling animals from their own home, or
  • permitted to sell under the Wildlife Act 1975.

If this applies, the seller will need to apply to the minster for a permit to sell animals.

The person must apply to the minister and pay the required application fee. The application must include an agreement that the applicant has made with a veterinarian to be on call during the sale. The permit only lasts up to one day. After the sale the seller must report on the number of animals offered for sale and the number sold.

For example this might happen if animals are to be sold at a fair or roadside stall.

Offence

If the person sells an animal without a permit they may be fined 30 penalty units or 150 penalty units if they are a business.

The same penalties apply for a person who fails to report to the minister within 28 days of the sale.

See ss. 3, 58N, 58O, 58R, 96—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and Value of penalty units.

Which animals does this apply to?

This restriction on sales includes dogs, cats, rabbits, mice, guinea pigs, reptiles, caged birds and other animals prescribed by the regulations

See ss. 3, 58M—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

More information

Legislation

Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)

  • s. 3—defines 'animal shelter', 'domestic animal breeding business' and 'foster care' and 'pet shop'
  • s. 5A—applicable organisations and recognised organisations
  • s. 5B—approval of dog obedience training organisations
  • s. 13—notification of sale by domestic animal business or foster carer
  • s. 45A—Transitional offence, acquiring additional fertile female dogs
  • s. 54—powers of council to register, renew or to transfer registration
  • s. 54A—registration where another domestic animal business on rateable property
  • s. 58AA—approval of commercial dog breeders
  • s. 58AC—application to the minister for commercial dog breeder approval
  • s. 58AD—chief veterinary officer may ask for report and monitoring
  • s. 58AE—chief veterinary officer may make recommendation
  • s. 5AH—approval is cancelled if business is transferred
  • s. 58L—animal sale permits
  • s. 58M—applying for an animal sale permit
  • s. 58N—issue of animal sale permits
  • s. 58O—conditions on animal sale permit
  • s. 58R—offence if a report is not sent to the minister
  • s. 63AAA—defines an 'approved source'
  • s. 63AAB—offences about sale or giving way animals by pet shops
  • s. 63AAC—offences for sale or giving away or providing animals to pet shops
  • s. 63AAE—offence to sell or give away a dog or cat to a pound
  • s. 68B—grant of foster carer registration
  • s. 96—offence to sell certain animals outside certain premises

See Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Reference

Animal Welfare

See Animal Welfare—Pet exchange register(opens in a new window).

Updated