Is your pet a liability? The law and your family pet.

by Rochelle Manderson

Part One: The cat.

Pet ownership is extremely common in Australia and many of us almost take for granted the fact that we own a pet and are responsible for every aspect of the animal’s life. It is also important to realise and to remember that there is legislation that regulates pet ownership, and if an owner breached the legislation they can be liability for or punishment of an owner.

The fundamental obligations for the care of animals are established in the Prevention Of Cruelty to Animal Act 1986, or POCTA. Under the provisions of the Act, a Code of Practice for keeping domestic animals have been created, and every pet owner should have read the Code of Practice for the animal they are housing. Remember, your pet, your responsibility!

For this blog, we will briefly look at cats. Local council will always have a Local Laws department that deal with pet registration and regulation, and these council regulations can vary, so it is important that you are familiar with your council requirements in your area. In general, council may have desexing requirements, or restrictions on the number of cats a person can keep. They can grant a permit for those keeping more cats that is allowed in your area, and may have a different standard for those cat owners involved in one of the recognised Cat Societies involved in showing or breeding cats, or as listed in the legislation as belonging to an ‘Applicable Organisation’. We will not go in depth here, or discuss breeding practices in this blog, for this blog is looking at the cat as a pet, however you should be aware of these requirements and how they can affect you.

It may seem basic, however it must be stated, your cat must be microchipped and registered with your local council. Cat breeders should have microchipped your kitten prior to your purchasing it, or if you have rescued a cat from an animal rescue organisation, they will most likely have microchipped your cat prior to sale. If your cat is not microchipped, you can have your vet implant the microchip for a small fee. The microchip is a small chip the size of a grain of rice that contains your contact details in case your cat is ever lost. Your council will require your cat to be microchipped prior to registration, and most councils will require your kitten to be registered rom 3 months of age. You will pay an annual fee to your council for registration of each cat you own. Attach your registration tag to your cat’s collar, which should be elasticised to prevent your cat being injured or killed should he collar catch on a tree etc.  You should develop a relationship with your local laws department to ensure you are complying with your legal obligations in this area.

There are minimum standards required for the care of your cat, including providing sufficient food, water, shelter and veterinary care for your pet. Cats over 6 months of age must be fed at least once a day and their diet must include meat. Your own choice to be vegetarian is not a defence of this, and a court will not accept this! Your cat should be regularly treated for parasites such as fleas and worms, and must be vaccinated by a vet. Their living area must provide adequate shade and shelter, and must include access to a weather-proof sleeping area. A cat must not be tethered, and if you are keeping your cat in an enclosure, you should ensure it complies with your local laws as well as with POCTA. When travelling in a vehicle, they must be transported in a well ventilated container such as a cat carrier or crate.

Finally, a word on trespass. If your cat is wandering off your property, you are still responsible for it. Your cat can be impounded by local council and you can be fined. Council will often have rules or laws dictating when your cat can be allowed to roam away from your property, with many councils enforcing a cat curfew. You must abide by these laws and regulations.
Of course, these minimum standards are only what is required to prevent you from breaching the law, you should want to go above and beyond these measures to ensure you cat has a wonderful and fulfilled life, otherwise, why have a cat at all? This blog is outlining the general requirements for keeping your cat, and you should ensure you have done further research before acquiring a cat as a pet.

Part two of this blog will focus on dogs, so stay tuned.

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