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Facts about: Dogs

This fact sheet provides information on the Darwin City Council by-laws that regulate dogs. To find more information about laws affecting dog owners outside of Darwin, click on the links for each council area:

You can download a copy of this fact sheet here (.pdf 137kb)


Dog owners

A dog owner is defined as:

  • the registered owner of the dog
  • the person who is in control of the dog at the time
  • the occupier of premises where the dog lives
  • the parent or guardian of the dog owner if that person is under 17 years of age.

Any person who fits into one of these categories may be prosecuted for an offence. This includes, for example, a person who takes a friend’s dog for a walk and it bites someone while out with them.



Registering dogs

Any dog more than three months old must be registered with the council. It is an offence to keep an unregistered dog. If you move to a new council area, you have 1 month to register your dog. A dog can be registered by completing the relevant council forms and paying a fee. All dog registrations must be renewed each year. A dog identification device will be issued and it is an offence for the dog not to wear it. Once a dog is registered, owners must comply with the conditions set by the council.

If you keep more than the allowed number of dogs on your premises, or dogs of a certain class as specified by the council, you need to get a special license from the council and pay a fee.



Dog offences

Common dog offences include:

  • having a dog at large and not under effective control
  • having a dog that chases a vehicle
  • having a dog that attacks or menaces a person or animal
  • having a dog that is a nuisance (for example, a dog that barks persistently or defecates repeatedly in a public place)
  • having a dog that is unregistered.

Dog offences are treated in the same way as parking offences. You will receive an infringement notice and be given time to pay a penalty. If you don’t pay the penalty, you will have to go to court and may be liable for further penalties if convicted. You can contact the council for more information about those penalties.

Other offences that attract penalties are:

  • allowing an unmuzzled ferocious dog to be loose
  • enticing or inducing a dog to attack or menace any person or animal
  • abandoning a dog (whether or not you are the owner)
  • removing an identification device from a registered dog
  • having a female dog on heat in a public place.



Noisy dogs

A person who has problems with continually noisy dogs should first talk to the dog owner. If this is unsuccessful, you can contact the council or use the Community Justice Centre for help to work it out with the owner. If the noise continues, you can apply to the local court for a noise abatement order. A noise abatement order directs the responsible person to either permanently reduce the noise or ensure that it is reduced at certain times of the day.

The council may issue an infringement notice or take other action if the nuisance barking is not resolved.



Injury caused by dogs

A dog owner is guilty of an offence if their dog attacks or menaces any person or animal, or if the dog owner entices or induces the dog to do so. A dog attack or menace carries a maximum penalty of $5000.

A dog owner is liable for loss, damage or injury caused by their dog. A person attacked by a dog may be able to make a civil claim against the dog’s owner for compensation for any injuries or loss that they have suffered.

Dog attacks should be reported to your local council.



Destruction of dogs

The local council or a judge can order any dog in the NT to be destroyed. The order is made against the owner of a dog that is diseased, injured, savage, or destructive. A person can also apply to the local court to have a dog destroyed if they:

  • can show they have suffered loss, damages or injury from a dog’s actions
  • live, or have lived, at premises where a dog has persistently caused a nuisance.

A copy of the order should be given to the dog’s owner. If this is not possible (for example, if the dog is a stray) the court can still order the dog to be destroyed.

A dog owner can’t take any action against a person who destroys a dog where:

  • the dog is diseased or injured and destroying it is humane
  • the person destroys the dog in accordance with Northern Territory law
  • the person destroys the dog on the request of someone they reasonably believe to be the dog’s owner.



Injuring or killing dogs

A person who injures or kills a dog can be sued for compensation by the dog’s owner. If you want to seek compensation you should get legal advice. A person who injures or kills a dog has a defence if:

  • the dog was attacking them, or someone else, or an animal belonging to them
  • they had reasonable grounds to think the dog was going to attack
  • the attack was unprovoked
  • they were not trespassing.



Areas not covered by local government

In areas that are not covered by local government by-laws, you can call the police about problems with dogs. Police can act on complaints in a number of ways. Police can order that that dog owner deals with noisy dogs, and that dogs be destroyed if they are diseased or injured.



Dog exercise areas

Councils have designated dog exercise areas, including some beaches (other conditions may apply). You can get a map showing these areas from a council office.

There are some areas where it is illegal to take your dogs, including:

  • East Point Reserve—from the area bounded by the entry gateway and Lake Alexander perimeter fence, including the beach area
  • Smith Street Mall
  • Market areas—Mindil Beach, Parap, Rapid Creek and Nightcliff during market times.




Mediation is available at the Community Justice Centre if you are having difficulty talking to the dog owner about the problem. A mediator will not decide who is right or wrong and they cannot impose a decision on you like a court can. Contact the Community Justice Centre on 1800 000 473 to arrange free mediation.



Further information

You can get more information about dogs from your local council or shire office. You can also find information about by-laws on the City of Darwin website, or by phoning the Pet Care Helpline on 08 8930 0606.




Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission
Call the Legal Aid Helpline 1800 019 343 (free call)

People who speak other languages can access the Legal Aid Helpline by calling the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 13 14 50 and asking for the interpreter to connect them to the Legal Aid Helpline.

Disclaimer: The information in this fact sheet is current as at April 2018. This content is provided as an information source only and is not legal advice. It is correct at the time of publication, but laws change. If you have a legal problem you should seek advice from a lawyer.


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