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Keeping Pets in Australia

Australians love their pets. But while we’re mad about cats and dogs, there are lots of rules about keeping them. This article will help make sure you don’t fall foul of the law and explain the rules about keeping exotic and native animals in Australia.

Common Pets in Australia

As in many countries around the world, cats and dogs are very popular pets in Australia. After all, everyone likes to spend a bit of time with a pet that has a bit of personality; cats and dogs have it in spades. Aquarium fish and birds are also quite popular – especially the Australian budgerigar. There are, of course, more exotic pets – some people keep reptiles, for instance. For the most part you can’t keep Australian animals as pets – although occasionally you’ll come across someone with a pet kangaroo, which has been hand-reared. (These people tend to have a bit of land, you don’t see this in the suburbs). Horses are also popular, although these might not be considered “pets”, per se.

Licensing and Regulation

It will be necessary to register your dog with the local council. It might also be necessary to register your cat – depending which local authority to live in. These are becoming more and more popular as “feral” cats (cats that have been born in the wild and roam) and “stray” cats (which roam loose but may have an owner) can be a nuisance. Some States also have law regarding “dangerous breeds” of dogs which limit who can own them.

Exotic and Native Pets

There are all sorts of rules about keeping exotic animals in Australia – things like iguanas, snakes and foreign birds – and falling foul of the law can result in very expensive fines or even imprisonment. In most cases you’ll need a permit to keep them. The laws are different in each state.

The Department of Environment has both a full explanation or you can follow the links to the state-by-state rules about importing exotic animals. If you’re buying an exotic pet, make sure the vendor is licenced.

As for Australian native species, both keeping and trading Australian wildlife is a restricted activity. While our marsupials are often cute and cuddly, they’re also mostly nocturnal and often very rare, which doesn’t make them ideal candidates as pets. All the same, you might occasionally meet someone whose dog is “part dingo” or see someone on the television raising wombats or koalas. Certainly in the latter case, the person will have a licence. If you’re really keen you could perhaps enquire about becoming a volunteer wildlife carer with a group such as Wires.

Bringing Pets into Australia

There are very strict rules surrounding importing pets to Australia, mostly because Australia does not have many of the exotic pest and diseases prevalent in the rest of the world. If you want to export a cat or dog to Australia the animal must meet certain requirements and then undergo vaccinations and quarantine. There is more information on the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service website. You can also read our article on relocating pets in our Relocating to Australia section.

Exercising Your Pet

Your local council will have set down some rules and regulations governing exercising your pet in a public place. While you’re relatively free to walk your dog wherever you want, you’ll find you can’t take them on most public beaches. Many councils do, however, provide specific “dog beaches”. Similarly, there are specific beaches and trails where you can exercise your horse, while being restricted from doing so on many others.

Check for signs before letting your dog off its leash, as most places will require dogs to be on a lead. You will also find most councils have quite substantial fines for not picking up dog poo and rangers often run patrols to find the pets and their owners responsible for dog fouling. Some councils provide specific bins for dog waste, particularly in popular exercise spots.

Pets and Cafes

It’s an ongoing bone of contention – while some people like taking their dogs with them to a café, others don’t want someone else’s slobbering hound jumping up at their food. In most places you’ll find the law – if applied – is actually on the side of those who don’t want the dogs there. It comes down to cleanliness: People have the right to consume their food in a clean environment, knowing it has also been prepared in a clean environment. Many cafes bend the rules on this and even provide water bowls for dogs. It’s probably best not to assume it’s OK to take your dog though, in case you get fined by a council ranger.

Travelling with Pets

Animals, with the exception of guide dogs for the blind, are not usually allowed on public transport or inside shops or other public buildings.

Airlines will take pets in the cargo hold, by prior arrangement. They cannot travel as carry-on baggage (even if you pay for an extra seat).

If you’re going on holiday, you will find dog-friendly accommodation in Australia – you just need to look for it quite specifically. A word of warning if you’re going into rural areas: Aerial fox baiting occurs in some places (like parts of Western Australia). Check this before letting your dog roam because if they take a bait, they are very likely to die and it will be extremely painful and unpleasant.

Pets are not allowed into national parks and reserves.

If you’re not travelling with your pet, there are plenty of kennels and catteries in most towns and cities where you can billet your furry friend.

Pet Insurance

It is possible to get pet insurance in Australia. There are several providers with various options of levels of cover available, including the RSPCA.

Visit our Life in Australia section for more articles related to Daily Life in Australia.

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