Some of the more common offences relating to dogs are for:
- having a dog that is not registered
- allowing your dog to get outside your premises
- your dog attacking a person or injuring another animal
- setting your dog on, or urging your dog to, attack a person or another animal
- abandoning your animal
- having a noisy dog that .
Charged with an offence
You may also be charged with an under the . This will depend on how serious the offence is. If you are charged you will get a notice to appear, or a to appear, in the Magistrates’ Court. Whether you are depends on the exact facts and circumstances of your case.
Declared dogs and restricted breeds
Some offences are treated more seriously if a council has declared your dog as dangerous or menacing, or if the dog is a restricted breed.
A dangerous dog is a dog that:
- has been trained to attack
- is used to guard non-residential property
- has been declared dangerous by a council.
A menacing dog is a dog that has:
- attacked another animal
- chased or rushed at a person
- bitten a person, but not seriously.
A restricted breed dog is a breed that is banned from import into Australia because it might be dangerous. Five breeds have been banned but only the American Pit Bull Terrier is known to exist in Victoria. The council can declare a dog to be a restricted breed dog if it looks like one.
Your options at court
You have three options at court:
- admit to the charges and ask for – the means your case is treated differently. It is normally for less serious cases. You must agree to certain conditions. You do not get a .
Can I adjourn the hearing?
The penalties you can get will depend on the charge or charges and whether your dog has been declared menacing, dangerous or a restricted breed by a council. The council will be able to tell you what the maximum penalties are for each of your offences.
In most cases the magistrate will give you a fine. You can get fined up to:
- 3 – where a court has ordered you to do something about a barking dog and you ignore the order
- 4 penalty units – where the dog rushes at a person or another animal
- 10 penalty units – where the dog is wandering outside your property
- 10 penalty units – where the dog bites a person or another animal and the injury is not serious
- 20 penalty units – where the dog is not registered
- 40 penalty units – where the dog attacks and causes death or serious injury
- 120 penalty units – where the dangerous or restricted breed dog causes death or serious injury.
Let the magistrate know if you might have trouble paying the fine. There are options. You can ask the magistrate to:
- make a plan for you to pay bit by bit
- give you community work instead of the fine.
The penalties are higher and may include jail if your dog has been declared a dangerous dog or a restricted breed dog or if a person is killed or seriously injured.
In deciding what penalties to give, the magistrate looks at:
- how serious your offence is
- if you have been found guilty of similar offences before
- what else is happening in your life.
What else might happen if I am found guilty?
Compensation – the magistrate can make you pay compensation for any damage that the dog does to a person or to any property.
Criminal record – what happens in court goes on your . The court and the police can see your criminal record. Sometimes they can let other people know what is in your criminal record. For example, a criminal record, especially with convictions, may make it harder for you to get some jobs or get visas to some countries.
Can I appeal the magistrate’s decision?
Can I appeal the council’s decision?
If you are found guilty of a dog attack, the council has the power to destroy your dog, even if the court has not ordered this. You can ask the council to formally review its decision if this happens. Act quickly.
If the council does not follow a formal review process you can ask the Supreme Court to review the council’s decision. This could be expensive. Get legal advice before you decide.
How do I pay a fine?
Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.
We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at www.legalaid.vic.gov.au
Reviewed 11 April 2022