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Councils push to limit pet ownership in NSW

DOGS NSW urges community to call out Hilltops Council new policy to limit pet ownership

Nationwide, 69% of Australian households own a pet but under the proposed Hilltops Council Draft Companion Policy, residents of this Council may soon find it very difficult to source a puppy locally. 

DOGS NSW opposes Hilltops Council Draft Keeping of Domestic Animals policy which sets to limit the number of animals locals can own which poses risks to animals being seized, foreshadows unreasonable fees and fines and creates a necessity for development applications so locals may keep their beloved pets.

As well as potentially leading to dogs being euthanised due to the issue of shelters that are currently overcrowded being further compounded. With just a couple of weeks left for public input - DOGS NSW are urging the community to submit their concerns to council immediately before the policy is formalised by council on 7 July.

DOGS NSW want to preserve the future of dog ownership, especially when it comes to residents of this council choosing to keep their dogs in their family and state the policy, unreasonably aims to remove the rights and options for local dog owners, whether they be for companion pets or hobby interests.

DOGS NSW Corgi Breeder, Robin 

The council proposes to limit owners to three dogs (over the age of 6 months) in a residential zone and a maximum of five dogs to 25 acres and advises the policy aims to promote responsible animal ownership, provide a balanced approach to the management of animals kept as pets and to assist owners of animals in understanding their obligations under the Local Government Act 1993, amongst other goals.

DOGS NSW believes this policy fails to address scope and does not achieve councils’ aims nor does it address the issues of irresponsible pet ownership, actually putting the welfare of animals at risk.

DOGS NSW is dedicated to continued high standards of Animal Welfare as it is extremely important to our organisation and members. We believe Hilltops councils draft Keeping of Animals’ Policy will adversely impinge upon registered dog owners who already comply with the law and the Local Government Act 1993, that already grants the power to a council to issue a local order restricting the number of dogs kept on a property and resolve issues on a case-by-case basis. This Draft Policy should not be a blanket approach limiting any dog numbers for locals who are already law abiding whether they have three or more dogs, regardless of the size of the property.

Over the years, other NSW councils have also tried to implement similar policies including Wollondilly Shire, Georges River and Hills district, however with opposition from the community and even some local councillors, these policies were changed or withdrawn. 
Recently Snowy Valleys Council have also issued a similar policy to implement a 3-dog limit for residential zoning. Snowy Valleys Council submissions have closed early despite legislation stating new policies should be on display for public exhibition for 48 days
There is a petition for this council here.

DOGS NSW Board Director Lyn Brand with her Bernese Mountain Dog

Policies such as this that aim to prevent small hobby breeders in residential areas, by failing to consider scope and scale, negatively resulting in Hobby breeders, who selectively breed small amounts of quality of dogs, being forced to cease. This would result in all dog breeding only permitted within large, sterile facilities and rare purebred dogs would then become unobtainable as they don’t suit the operations of large commercial breeding facilities,” DOGS NSW President Lynette Brown says.

Furthermore, DOGS NSW believe that if this policy is adopted state-wide it will create a scarcity of puppies and dogs in NSW, drive up prices and increase the black-market trade in puppies that undermines welfare.

“Implementation of policies such as this, primarily impact those that are compliant with the Companion Animals Act, who microchip and register with the companion animals register (Pet Registry), making them easily identifiable. This could result in consumers being forced to buy online or on the black market and risk being scammed out of thousands of dollars, obtaining pet dogs from unregulated breeders and risk ending up with a poorly bred dog with health and or behavioural problems. This will be a huge incentive for non-compliant backyard operators to proliferate, whilst ethical registered hobby breeders will be disadvantaged and negatively impacted,” Lynette Brown says.

DOGS NSW have further identified the problems with the proposed animal policy:
  • Potential surrendering and euthanasia of animals due to breaching number restrictions.
  • Result in panic dumping and euthanasia of dogs in excess of the proposed guidelines. If owners are forced to surrender their animals due to numbers exceeding policy restrictions, even though the Rehoming Bill states councils must try to rehome animals to prevent euthanasia, sadly many dogs could still risk euthanasia, given rescue shelters are currently overcrowded and may not be able to accept more dogs.
  • Should dog owners be forced to surrender their dogs’ due to numbers exceeding this policy, the outcome may result in further overloading of animal shelters and Council pounds. These are already publicly known to be at capacity in NSW and long waiting lists are currently in place for pounds to accept any further surrenders. In Australia, over 200,000 animals have been surrendered to Australian shelters, this will only add to the already overcrowding issue and could still be euthanised.
  • The policy could act as a deterrent to individuals registering dogs with Council in order to hide them, resulting in loss of revenue to Hilltops Council and a loss of control of dog numbers and dog management.

Companion Animals Act and local orders: 

  • The policy adds an unnecessary layer of complexity to the current Companion Animals Act.
  • Provisions already exist for a council to issue a local order concerning the number of dogs that can be kept on an individual property.
  • Councils can develop policies either through their Local Companion Animal Management Plans or Local Orders Policies but as per the Companion Animals Act – Frequently Asked Questions issued to councils in 2001, states: "There is no limit on the number of animals which a person can own provided that the animals are properly cared for and do not pose a nuisance, health or safety risk to other members of the community."
  • Seeks to enforce unnecessary further levels of bureaucracy and enforce unreasonable prohibitive fees in respect of variations.
The council states in their policy they are responding to concerns from the community including minimising the incidence of nuisance, protecting the welfare of companion animals and minimising the disturbance of or damage to the environment.

However, Lynette Brown states, “Significant community anxiety is evident as DOGS NSW have received a surge in enquiries from distressed members and the general public dog owners who are fearful that they will be forced to surrender any dogs in excess of the proposed guidelines and seeking assurances that their dogs will be safe.

The policy could have significantly impact on the local council area economy, particularly with regards to small businesses providing pet services including veterinary practices, food and service suppliers and could result in dog owners leaving their local area to save their pets – all of which would cause further stress to its residents. The policy would have a devastating effect on dogs and owners so we need to do all we can to save our beloved pets.”

DOGS NSW are encouraging local dog owners to submit their concerns on Hilltops council website by 7 July to stop the policy taking effect and to sign a petition here: which was set up by local dog owners who don’t want to lose their beloved pets.

“This is the time for locals to have their voice heard by councils which don’t support Australian dog owners and registered hobby breeders. DOGS NSW would welcome a discussion with Hilltops Council and recommend they defer any decision-making in regard to the “Draft Keeping of Domestic Animals Policy May 2023” until such time as the review of the Companion Animals Act 1998 is completed. Should the policy pass, we encourage the community to individually write to their local government member,” says Lynette Brown.


DOGS NSW, whose professional heritage dates back to 1948, promotes and raises the standards of breeding purebreds, maintains the register of purebred dogs, encourages responsible dog ownership amongst members and the community, and supports contributions to canine veterinary research. The association, which is a member of DOGS Australia, also promotes activities such as dog shows, obedience and agility training, retrieving, sporting dog trials and more. DOGS NSW supports rescue groups and clubs and currently has over 70 breed rescue groups.

For more information, please visit

MEDIA RELEASE,  23rd June 2023

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