Edmonds Judd

Dangerous dogs

Over the fence

Obligations of working dog owners

There are a range of legal obligations and responsibilities associated with owning working dogs. ‘Working dogs’ are specifically defined under the Dog Control Act 1996 and include dogs used solely or principally for the purpose of herding or driving stock.

Registration and microchipping: Working dogs do not have to be microchipped unless they are kept on the farm as a family pet or used for recreational hunting. While working dogs may not need microchipping, they must be registered and wear a collar with a council-provided disc or label.

When registering a working dog, you must specify that they are a working dog. If you don’t register or micro-chip (where required) working dogs, you can be fined up to $3,000.

Dangerous dogs: If your working dog attacks a person, another animal or protected wildlife, you may be fined up to $3,000 and your dog may be destroyed. If your dog causes serious injury (or death) to a person, animal or to protected wildlife you may be imprisoned for up to three years and/or fined up to $20,000.

If your dog attacks a person or animal and no destruction order is made, your local council can still classify your dog as dangerous, meaning it must be kept within a fenced area, neutered, muzzled and kept on a leash in public places. You will also be liable for higher registration fees and cannot dispose of the dog to another person without the written consent of your local council.

Protection of working dogs: You must ensure your dogs receive proper care and attention, including sufficient food, water and adequate exercise. Failing to care for your dogs is considered an offence and you could be imprisoned for up to three months or fined up to $5,000.

Local councils also have the power to impose certain obligations regarding dog controls. Therefore, it is crucial to check your local council’s policies regarding working dogs to ensure you are compliant.

MPI: Animal welfare checks

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) regulates animal welfare and ensures the safe treatment of animals in New Zealand. Since 1 July 2023, MPI is responsible for delivering inspectorate services for all animal species in New Zealand.

The Animal Welfare Act 1999 provides the legislative framework for the care, treatment and obligations relating to animals, including when using animals for the purposes of research, testing and teaching. MPI inspectors have wide-reaching authority under the Act. This allows them to enforce the rules under the legislation and to ensure that animals are being treated and cared for properly.

In particular, section 127 of the Act authorises an inspector to enter onto private land, premises, vehicles, aircraft or ships (without a warrant) to carry out a routine inspection on an animal. The power of entry does not require an inspector to hold a belief that any offence has been committed. However, inspectors may only enter onto private land at a reasonable time and evidence must be provided to the animal’s owner of the inspector’s identity. No force must be used; entry into private dwellings or a marae can only be undertaken with a search warrant.

If nobody is present at the time of entry, the inspector must leave in a prominent place a written statement of the time and date of entry, the purpose of entry, the condition of the animals inspected, the animals removed (if any), and the address of the police station or other office to which enquiries can be made.

If an inspector has reasonable grounds to believe an animal has been mistreated, they can move that animal to a place chosen by them. Inspectors may also remove an animal if they believe it requires veterinary care or the owner is disqualified from owning animals. The animal will be kept at the chosen location until a judge orders the animal be returned to the owner, or the owner is charged and the animal is forfeited to the Crown.

Firearms Registry opened 24 June 2023

After the Christchurch terrorist attacks, the government introduced laws strengthening the management of firearm use, including establishing a Firearms Register. The Register opened on 24 June 2023.

All New Zealand firearms licence holders must now register all non-prohibited firearms, restricted weapons, pistols, major parts, prohibited firearms/magazines and pistol carbine conversion kits. Do note that firearms that do not work must still be registered.

Licence holders have until 24 June 2028 to register the items listed on the previous page. However, there are a number of activating circumstances that will require someone to register the items sooner. Examples of the activating circumstances are where a firearm is being purchased or sold, where a firearm has been lost or stolen, or where a person is applying for a new (or renewing an existing) firearms licence/endorsement.

Individual firearms licence holders do not need to register antique firearms or airguns (excluding specifically dangerous airguns). Individuals are also not required to register  ammunition in their possession, nor to record sales or purchases of ammunition to or from other firearms licence holders.

To find out more about the Firearms Registry, click here.



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Copyright, NZ LAW Limited, 2022.     Editor: Adrienne Olsen.       E-mail: [email protected].       Ph: 029 286 3650