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Dangerous dogs

Describes the law about dogs that have been declared to be dangerous.

When can a council declare a dog to be dangerous?

If a dog causes (or has been trained to cause) injury the council has the power to declare it to be a dangerous dog. If council makes such a declaration there are special conditions that the owner must comply with to keep the dog. There are heavy penalties if the owner fails to comply.

The declaration of ‘dangerous’ dog is more serious than that of a ‘menacing’ dog.

See Menacing dogs.

A local council has the power to declare a dog to be dangerous if that dog:

  • has been trained to attack
  • is kept as a guard dog to guard non-residential premises
  • has attacked, rushed at or chased a person on 2 occasions
  • caused an injury that is not serious to a person or other animal on 2 occasions
  • been declared to be a 'menacing' dog and the owner has been fined for failing to properly restrain the dog on 2 occasions (that is, muzzled and on a lead under s. 41E)
  • if the dog has been declared a dangerous dog by another corresponding law of a state or territory
  • attacked a person or animal and has caused a serious injury or death.

The owner must have been found guilty of the offences listed, or if they have failed to restrain a menacing dog, they must have been fined and paid the fine. Other reasons may be prescribed in the regulations.

See s. 34—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic).

Special conditions that apply

If council makes one of these declarations about a dog, the owner has to comply with special procedures. If the dog moves from one council to another, the owner must notify the new council about the declaration within 24 hours of moving.

Penalties for dog attacks are much higher if the animal has been declared dangerous and attacks a person or other animal. The penalties are listed under Dog attacks.

Warning signs must be displayed and the owner must notify the council within 24 hours if their dog goes missing. There are also special conditions attached to their housing enclosures.

See Responsibilities for dangerous dog owners.

What is serious injury?

Serious injury means broken bones, lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery or the total or partial loss of sensation or function in a part of the body.

See Dog attacks.

Exceptions

The council must not make a declaration that a dog is dangerous if the incident occurred:

  • because the dog was being teased, abused or assaulted
  • because the person injured was trespassing on premises on which the dog was kept
  • because the animal injured was on premises on where dog was kept
  • because another person known to the dog was being attacked in front of dog
  • as part of a hunt conducted in accordance with Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.

How a declaration is made

Before a council can declare a dog to be dangerous they must:

  • notify the owner in writing and serve either in person or by registered post within 7 days of the decision
  • give reasons for the declaration in the notice
  • give the owner an opportunity to make both oral and written submissions to the council
  • consider any material submitted before making the declaration.

See s. 35—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic).

If owner applies for a dangerous dog declaration

The owner of a dog may apply to the local council to have their dog declared dangerous. This might happen if ownership is transferred to them or if their dog is used to guard non-residential premises and has been trained to attack. If this happens, the council may make the declaration without serving a notice on the owner or giving reasons for their decisions.

If ownership of a dangerous dog changes the new owner must notify their council. The penalty for not notifying council is 10 penalty units.

See s. 37—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic).

Review of council decision

An owner may apply to the General list of Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for review of a council’s decision to declare a dog dangerous, menacing or a restricted breed.

An owner can apply for review of a council’s refusal to register or renew registration of a dangerous, restricted breed or menacing dog unless council is prohibited from registering such a dog.

The council must not register or renew the registration of a dangerous dog unless it has been permanently identified and de-sexed. Some exceptions apply to the de-sexing requirement.

See s. 98(2)—Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic) and Microchips.

Time limit

Owners must apply to VCAT for a review within 28 days of the latest event:

  • council decision made
  • reasons for a decision are given (or refused) by VCAT.

See Forms.

More information

Legislation

Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic)

  • Part 3 Div 3—particular provisions for the control of dangerous dogs
  • s. 34—power of council to declare a dog to be dangerous
  • s. 35—procedure for making a declaration
  • s. 37—notifications to council and penalties for failing to notify
  • s. 36—council must give notice of a declaration to owner
  • s. 41E—menacing dog must be kept muzzled and on lead
  • s. 98(2)—review of decisions by VCAT

See Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic).

Updated