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Pets

A significant number of people who are homeless share their journey with their pets. That may be for a number of reasons, including because it can be hard to access safe accommodation that is pet‐friendly, the importance of the companionship of a pet for a person’s mental health, or even for some people finding themselves sleeping rough, for security and warmth.

It is important to know that there are laws that impact on pet ownership in the ACT, and that failure to comply with these laws could result in fines or even seizure of your pet. This factsheet will cover the main legal obligations for keeping a pet dog or cat in Canberra, as well as where you can get help.

New Dogs / Selling or Giving Away a Dog

If ownership of a dog is transferred in the ACT, there is a requirement to notify the registrar of Domestic Animal Services of the name and address of the new owner, within 14 days. This obligation applies to both the old and new owner, and a fine of up to $1600 can be levied for non‐compliance.

Registration

If you own a dog in the ACT and have been in the ACT for more than 28 days, you must register it in the ACT, even if it has been registered previously in another state or territory. Registration costs $57.55, or $20.70 if you receive a Centrelink benefit. From July 1 2021 a dog must be registered every 12 months. You will receive a reminder notice 14 days before the registration expires. If you do not register your dog each year you could be fined up to $1600. This is a once‐off fee, and registration is for the lifetime of the dog, unless you surrender or cancel the registration. Your dog must also be microchipped, and desexed unless you hold a special permit to allow for breeding your dog. Failure to register your dog in the ACT can attract a fine of up to $2400. Unregistered dogs may be seized by Domestic Animal Services.

Microchipping

If your pet is lost, microchipping can help it to be identified as yours and returned to you. This is a simple process where a tiny chip is inserted under the animal’s skin. Dogs and cats rarely display discomfort while this procedure is being done. Microchips can be inserted by any veterinarian in Canberra, as well as by the RSPCA or by Domestic Animal Services (DAS). If you wish to get your dog microchipped by DAS, contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81. It is important to keep your contact details up to date (or put someone you trust as an emergency contact) to help make sure you can be reunited with your pet if they become lost. Microchipping is a legal requirement of dog ownership in the ACT, and dogs that have not been microchipped may be seized by Domestic Animal Services.

Desexing

Desexing your dog is important, and it is a legal requirement that if you do not hold a breeding permit that your dog be desexed if they are over 6 months of age. Keeping a dog that is not desexed (even if you did not know about this law) can attract a fine of up to $8000. It is also unlawful to sell a dog over 6 months of age that has not been desexed. If you breed a litter of puppies from your dog without a breeding licence, your dog and puppies may be seized by Domestic Animal Services.

You must desex your cat if it is over three months of age unless you have a special permit. It is unlawful to sell a cat that has not been desexed if you do not have a permit.

There are a number of agencies that can help you with subsidised veterinary help if you are worried that you cannot afford to desex your dog or cat. The RSPCA is able to offer flexible payment for desexing, such as Centrepay if you receive a Centrelink benefit.

You must desex your cat or dog within 28 days of it coming into your care, unless a veterinary practitioner provides a letter to you that says that de‐sexing the dog or cat would be a serious health risk to the animal.

Public Places

When you are in a public place with your dog, they must be under your effective control. This means they need to be on a leash, or in your line of sight, and you are able to prevent them approaching other people and animals. In most public places in the ACT, except for designated dog parks, you need to take all reasonable steps to ensure that your dog is leashed. If your dog is out in a public place without you and you haven’t taken reasonable steps to prevent this, you could be liable for a fine of up to $2400, and your dog could be seized by Domestic Animal Services.

If your dog defecates in a public place or storm water way, you need to dispose of the waste hygienically, such as by picking it up in a plastic bag and putting it in the bin. Fines of $800 can be issued for not doing this.

Prohibited Places

There are certain locations where it can be against the law to take your pet dog. It is unlawful to take your dog onto the grounds of a primary school, day care centre or kindergarten without the permission of the principal or person in charge of that location. A fine of up to $2400 may apply. It is also unlawful to take your dog onto high school premises during school hours, or to a field or playing area where sport is being played. You may also not take your dog into a public place within 10m of children’s play equipment while children are playing on it, near public barbecues that are being used to cook food, or in designated swimming areas for people near ACT lakes. Fines of up to $1600 may apply.

The Minister is also able to designate other locations as dog‐free zones. These must be marked with signage to let you know you cannot take your dog there, and fines of up to $800 may apply. Dogs that are found in a prohibited area may be seized by Domestic Animal Services.

Cat Containment Areas

Some areas in Canberra are designated cat containment areas, which means that the Minister has declared that cats roaming in an area are a serious threat to native flora or fauna in the area, and cats need to be confined to their keeper’s premises either at all times or during specified times. If your cat is outside your premises in a cat containment area during a time the containment areas is in force, you can be fined up to $1600, and your cat may be impounded. If you can be identified as the owner of the cat, then you must be served with a notice telling you when, where and why your cat was seized, and letting you know what might happen if your cat is not claimed.

Attacks

A dog is considered to harass a person if it exhibits behaviour that could reasonably cause a person who is not provoking the dog, to be frightened that the dog is about to attack them. Hunting or tormenting another animal is also a form of harassment. If a dog you are caring for attacks or harasses a person or another animal, you can be fined up to $8000. If your dog causes serious injury to a person or another animal and you either intended the dog to hurt someone or were reckless about whether or not someone might get hurt, a fine of up to $16,000, or imprisonment for one year, or both, can apply. If your dog is provoked by the person or animal they attack, or if the dog is protecting someone, or if the person who is attacked is on your premises without lawful excuse, these may be defences to prosecution for dog attack/harassment.

If a Court finds that your dog did harass or attack a person or other animal, the Court may make an order that your dog be destroyed, or be subject to any other order the Court thinks is necessary to protect the safety of other people or animals, including declaring your dog to be a dangerous dog. Penalties can apply even if you did not mean for your dog to harass or attack someone, so it is very important to make sure you are in control of your dog and take reasonable steps to make sure they are not posing a risk to anyone. If your dog has been declared a dangerous dog and attacks someone causing serious injury, there can be a penalty of up to $80,000 and/or five years imprisonment. You may also be liable for loss and expense caused to another person by your dog, even if no criminal charges are brought against you. This means you can be sued for expenses incurred by another person because of damage caused by your dog. This includes if your dog attacks another dog and it is injured or killed. You may be liable for vet bills, or replacement of the other animal and possibly other costs. These expenses can be thousands of dollars.

It is a legal requirement that if you are with your dog and they attack someone, that you provide your name, address and contact details and render reasonable assistance if asked. Failure to do so can attract a fine of $8000.

Registrars, ACAT and Control Orders

If your dog has been seized by Domestic Animal Services, they must provide you with a notice of seizure that sets out when, where and why the dog was seized, where it may be claimed, any costs that may apply for release of the dog to you, and the period of time you have to claim the dog before it can be sold or destroyed.

If your dog has attacked someone and caused serious injury to a person, or another animal is killed, the registrar must destroy the dog unless they can be reasonably satisfied the dog is not likely to be a danger to the public or another animal. A registrar may order that a dog be destroyed if the dog causes a less serious injury to another person, or a serious injury to another animal, or is otherwise aggressive and menacing. If the registrar is considering destroying your dog, they must provide notice to you in writing.

If you do not want your dog to be destroyed, it is important to seek urgent legal advice as a strict 7 day time limit exists to apply to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT)for a review of this decision, from the date you received this notice. If the registrar decides not to destroy the dog, they may still issue what is called a control order. They have to give you a copy of this order.

A control order can set out special legal obligations on you to ensure that your dog poses no risk to public safety. If your dog has not been registered, microchipped or desexed it can require that these things are done, as well as anything else the registrar considers necessary for public safety. Breach of a control order can be a very serious matter that could lead to the dog being seized and/or destroyed, and it can also result in a fine of up to $8000. If you have complied fully with a control order so that your dog is safe, it is possible to apply to the registrar to have the control order revoked.

Assistance Animals

Assistance animals are animals which provide special assistance to people who have a disability. They are not pets, but the laws around when an animal is considered an assistance animal can be complex. See Disability Discrimination Factsheet 3 and contact the Disability Discrimination Legal Service at Canberra Community Law if you wish to speak to a lawyer about your assistance animal.

Contact Information & Services

Canberra Community Law- Street Law Program: 02 6218 7900, level 1/21 Barry Dr, Turner ACT 2602 email streetlaw@canberracommunitylaw.org.au

Domestic Animal Services: 13 22 81 during business hours and ask for Domestic Animal Services

Services that can assist with desexing or veterinary help

Pets in the Park: 1st Sunday of every month from 2:00PM ‐ 4:00PM, Pilgrim House, 69 Northbourne Ave, Canberra City – talk to the Early Morning Centre for a referral

Rainbow Paws: Phone 0416 646 050, email info@rainbowpaws.org

RSPCA ACT: Phone (02) 6287 8100, 12 Kirkpatrick Street Weston (off Cotter Road) ACT 2611 Australia Centrepay and Vetpay options available to help with fees for desexing and veterinary assistance.

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.

If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on 1800 787 529 or streetlaw@canberracommunitylaw.org.au Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.

© 2019 Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.

Last updated: June 2019.

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Begging, hawking and police move-on powers

Begging is not an offence in the ACT.

There are some laws restricting hawking in the ACT, which generally involves moving around and selling goods and services out of a vehicle. You’ll usually need a permit to hawk in the ACT.

The police have the power to direct people to leave public places where they recently have, are, or are likely to, behave violently, damage property or cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety.

1. Begging

It is not a crime to beg in a public place in the ACT.

2. Hawking

Generally, a hawker is someone who moves around and sells goods or services out of a vehicle. It is illegal for a person to carry on business as a hawker, if in doing so, the person obstructs the movement of people or vehicles on public unleased land (public territory land like carparks, footpaths and parks). If a person does this, they could be fined up to $4800.

You will generally be required to get a permit to hawk, if your hawking is carried on in a way which excludes members of the public from the place you are selling. If you do not hold a permit you may be fined up to $3200. An exception to this rule applies where you carry on the business of hawking for 30 minutes or less in any location, and each location is 180 meters away from a place selling similar goods or services.

3. Police move-on powers

The police can tell a person to leave a public place if they believe that the person has recently behaved, is behaving, or is likely:

  • to behave in a violent or intimidating way,
  • to damage property; or
  • to engage in conduct that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety.

The police can tell the person to stay away from the public place for up to 6 hours, and direct them to leave the public place a particular way.

A person who is told by police to either leave a public place, stay away from a public place or leave in a particular way must do so. If the person does not do what they are told by the police, they may be fined up to $320.

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.
If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on (02) 6218 7900 or info@canberracommunitylaw.org.au. Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.
© Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.
Last updated: 14 May 2021

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Sleeping / Loitering in Public Places

Loitering

Loitering is not a crime in the ACT. However, you may commit a crime if you loiter for a particular reason or in a particular place. For example, trying to make someone afraid by loitering, or loitering in relation to prostitution, may constitute an offence.

Sleeping in public places

Sleeping in a public place is not a crime in the ACT. The police only have the power to move you on if they reasonably believe you recently have, are, or are likely to, engage in violent conduct or some similar situations.

Move on powers

Police may direct people to move on from a public place, if the person is, or is likely to be, violent, intimidating or engage in similar conduct.

Camping or caravans

There are some laws restricting where you can camp or keep a caravan in the ACT.

Public place offences

There are offences for doing certain things in a public place, such as fighting, drinking in certain areas, urinating, nudity and not moving on when a police officer says to.

1. Is it illegal to sleep or loiter in a public place?

It is not illegal for you to sleep or loiter in a public place in the ACT. Police do not have the power to move you on if you are not committing an offence, or if the police officer does not reasonably believe you recently have, are, or are likely to engage in violent, intimidating, or other similar conduct.

2. When is it illegal to loiter?

Loitering on at least 2 occasions with the intent to cause apprehension or fear, or to harass a person, constitutes stalking. The maximum penalty for this is 2 years imprisonment, or 5 years imprisonment if it contravenes a court order or you have an offensive weapon on you at the time.

It is illegal to loiter in a public place for the purposes of offering or obtaining commercial sexual services (i.e. prostitution). The maximum penalty for this is $3200.

3. When can the police ask you to move on?

The police can ask you to move on if you are in a public place, and police reasonably believe that you recently have, are, or are likely to:

  • Engage in violent conduct,
  • Engage in violent conduct,
  • Damage property, or
  • Engage in conduct that causes a reasonable person to fear for their safety.

Just because someone complains about you, this does not mean the police can tell you to move on.

4. Camping and caravaning

However, in the ACT is it illegal to ‘camp’ or keep a caravan:

  • In a lake area at night. The maximum fine for doing so is $4,800.
  • On unleased territory land (this basically means public places and roads in the ACT). The maximum fine for doing so is $3200.

5. There are a number of public space offences for which you may be fined:

Examples of these are:

  • Fighting in a public place. Maximum penalty $3200.
  • Behaving in a riotous, indecent, offensive or insulting manner near, or within the view or hearing of a person in a public place. Maximum penalty $3200.
  • Indecent exposure (eg nudity). Maximum penalty $3200, imprisonment for 1 year or both.
  • Urinating in a public place (other than in a toilet). Maximum penalty $1600.
  • Not moving on, when you are directed to by a police officer (as outlined above). Maximum penalty $320.
  • Drinking alcohol, or having an open container of alcohol, in certain public places, such as bus stations, bus interchanges, within 50 metres of bus stations or interchanges, or alcohol free places. Maximum penalty $800.

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.
If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on (02) 6218 7900 or info@canberracommunitylaw.org.au. Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.
© Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.
Last updated: 19 May 2021

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Sleeping in your car

It is not illegal for you to sleep in your car, even for long periods of time.

Police may speak to you to work out whether you need some support from a service (for example, a service to help you obtain emergency housing), and help you to obtain that support.

There are only limited circumstances in which police may ask you to move your car.

Camping or keeping caravans is not allowed in certain areas in the ACT.

1. Not illegal to sleep in your car

It is not illegal for you to sleep or live in your car. If you are not causing a disturbance and are legally parked on a public road then the police are NOT required to move you on.

When can you be asked to move on?

If, by sleeping in your car, you are reasonably causing someone to fear for their safety, the police may ask you to move on. For example, if you are parked near a home, and the person inside the home reasonably fears for their safety, then police may request you to find an alternate location, but they do not have to.

2. Camping and caravans

In the ACT is it illegal to ‘camp’ or keep a caravan in the following areas:

  • A lake area at night. The maximum fine for doing so is $4,800.
  • On unleased territory land (public places and roads in the ACT) without a permit. The maximum fine for doing so is $3200.

3. What would the Police do to help?

If you have to sleep or live in your car, you are experiencing a serious housing problem, Police may see if you need support from one or more services.

4. Where can I seek help?

  • Call OneLink on 1800 176 468. This service manages all emergency accommodation in Canberra. The call is free from a landline.
  • Call Street Law on 6218 7900 or drop in (21 Barry Drive, Turner). We are a free legal service for people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. We can refer you to the right support service.

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.
If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on (02) 6218 7900 or info@canberracommunitylaw.org.au. Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.
© Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.
Last updated: 14 May 2021

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Drinking alcohol in public places

Drinking alcohol or carrying an open alcohol container is prohibited in or near some public places. The maximum penalty is $800.

1. Public places where it is illegal to drink alcohol

It is an offence to drink alcohol, or have an open container of alcohol:

  • at a bus interchange; or
  • bus station; or
  • light rail stop; or
  • Within 50 metres of a bus interchange or station, light rail stop, a shop, or a licenced premises (such as a bar or café selling alcohol); or
  • In an area where there are signs saying that it is a permanent or temporary alcohol-free place.

2. Seizure of alcohol in public places

If a police officer or investigator thinks you are drinking alcohol or have an open container of alcohol in one of the places listed above, they can take the alcohol and dispose of it. If they dispose of the alcohol, you cannot be charged with an offence or cautioned.

3. Assumption that drink is alcohol

If you are carrying an open container with a label or mark describing the contents as liquor (for example, if the label says something like ‘2.6% Alc/Vol’) then the police will assume the contents are alcoholic.

4. Permanent alcohol-free places in Canberra

Permanent alcohol-free places are one type of place in the ACT where you are not allowed to drink alcohol or have an open container of alcohol. Permanent alcohol-free places include places in Civic and public skate parks.

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.
If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on (02) 6218 7900 or info@canberracommunitylaw.org.au. Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.
© Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.
Last updated: 14 May 2021

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Public Urination

It is illegal to urinate in a public place.

If you do, you could be fined up to $1600.

Are any defences available?

It is an excuse to urinating in public if it is for a ‘sudden or extraordinary emergency’. This means if you urinate in public in response to circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency you won’t be liable for the offence. A sudden or extraordinary emergency includes circumstances where you believe that committing the offence is the only reasonable way to deal with the emergency, and it turns out that it was a reasonable response.

This argument will not work if it simply was not convenient or easy for you to find a public toilet at the time.

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.
If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on (02) 6218 7900 or info@canberracommunitylaw.org.au. Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.
© Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.
Last updated: 14 May 2021

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Smoking in a non-smoking area

It is illegal to smoke in designated non-smoking areas in the ACT.

If you do, you face fines of $800. The fine increases to $3200 if you have been told to stop smoking by a police officer or the building occupier and you don’t stop.

1. What is a ‘non-smoking area’ in the ACT?

1.1 Enclosed public places

There are many places that fall into this category: businesses, cinemas or theatres, clubs and hotels, community centres, government premises, nursing homes, libraries, churches, public transport vehicles, restaurants, schools, shopping centres and sporting venues. In general a public place is enclosed if it is covered and 75% or more of the area is enclosed.

1.2 Outdoor eating or drinking places

These are places like restaurants, cafés, food courts, or bars. It is illegal to smoke in these places while food or drink is being served, or while there is cleaning going on.

But if the owner has put up a sign designating a certain area as an ‘outdoor smoking area’ then you can smoke there!

1.3 Play equipment

This includes 10 metres around play equipment provided by the ACT government, such as play equipment in parks.

2. When am I actually ‘smoking’?

‘Smoking’ includes actually smoking an ignited smoking product, or just holding the smoking product while it is ignited! Smoke includes vapour from a personal vaporiser.

3. Is it an offence to litter cigarette butts?

It is an offence to drop litter butts at a public place or an open private place unless you are dropping the cigarette butt in the bin. If you do litter a cigarette butt you could be fined up to $1,600.

It is also an offence where you put the cigarette butt in the bin, but it does, or is likely to, escape from the bin onto a public place or open private place. For this you can be fined up to $1,600.

Disclaimer

The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.
If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on (02) 6218 7900 or info@canberracommunitylaw.org.au. Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.
© Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.
Last updated: 14 May 2021

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