Owning a dog
Kiwis love their dogs – almost one third of households have one – and we take the responsibility of dog ownership seriously. There are strict rules around dog ownership, to protect both the animal and the general public.
A dog is a wonderful companion but it also comes with obligations and costs.
As a dog owner, you must:
- register your dog with your local council and get it microchipped (a small device is implanted just under the dog's skin)
- keep your dog under control at all times
- ensure your dog is in good physical health and that you meet its behavioural needs
- ensure your dog has food, water and shelter.
Care and costs
Dogs need your time and attention, as well as plenty of exercise.
Dog ownership is rewarding, but it can be expensive. In 2011, the NZ Companion Animal Council estimated that caring for a dog costs around $1,050 NZD a year. Costs include food, veterinary care and care of your dog while you are working or travelling.
Each local council has their own rules around looking after dogs. You may find more information in the regional section of this website, under “Recreation”, or on your local council’s website.
Registering and microchipping
All dogs over three months old must be microchipped and legally registered. To register a dog, owners must provide information and pay a fee to their local council. A registration disc or strap will be provided for the dog to wear. Failure to register could result in fine.
Microchip insertion is permanent and relatively painless. When councils record the microchip number and other information on the National Dog Database, it becomes easier to return lost or stolen dogs to their owners, and to keep track of problematic dogs.
The law requires that you take good care of your dog. It must be healthy and free from distress and pain. If the dog is sick or injured, you must get appropriate medical care. You should also plan for your dog in the event of a natural disaster, such as an earthquake.
By staying up to date with vaccinations, flea, tick and worming treatments, you can keep your dog healthy. As a responsible pet owner, you should have your dog de-sexed to prevent the birth of unwanted puppies.
Public safety around dogs
Local councils are responsible for dog control. Councils can make bylaws to ban dogs from specified public places and set out areas where dogs can be exercised off leash.
If your dog is a threat to people, other animals, or wildlife, the council may decide it is 'menacing' or 'dangerous'. A menacing dog must be muzzled and may need to be de-sexed. Some breeds of dog are automatically classified as menacing.
A dangerous dog must be de-sexed and kept in a fully fenced area at home. When in public it must be muzzled and kept on a leash.
When a dog defecates in a public place, the owner must clean it up. Most dog owners carry plastic bags with them for this purpose.
Dogs that have been trained and certified to assist people with disabilities are allowed to enter many places where dogs are generally banned. To find out more about Disability Assist Dogs, contact the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).
Learning how to be a responsible dog owner
The Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RNZSPCA) runs animal centres, a pet adoption service and education programmes. It also employs inspectors, whose role includes law enforcement.
Your local council, RNZSPCA centre or vet should be able to advise you about dog obedience classes.
Some councils offer discounted dog registration rates if the owner meets their requirements to qualify as a responsible dog owner.
Bringing pets into New Zealand
To enter New Zealand, your pet must meet certain health requirements. This is to prevent the arrival of pests and diseases. The entry requirements vary according to the type of animal and the country from which it is arriving.
To successfully import a cat or dog, you will need to:
- read the import health standard, guidance document and checklists for cats and dogs
- check that your cat or dog is eligible for import into New Zealand
- book a Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI)- approved quarantine facility (for all cats and dogs except from Australia)
- apply to MPI for a permit to import at least six weeks before you leave (all cats and dogs except from Australia)
- ensure all of the import requirements have been met
- notify an official veterinarian in New Zealand at least five working days before arrival if your cat or dog is coming from Australia or at least 72 hours before arrival if it is coming from any other approved country
- check inspection times for biosecurity clearance for cats and dogs from Australia
- declare any medication your animal is taking
- use a pet exporter (recommended).
More information on bringing your pets to New Zealand can be found on the following websites.