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Dog Found at Large Between Sunrise and Sunset

– section 24 (1) and (2) of the Domestic Animals Act 1994

A dog ‘found at large’ is a dog that is found to be wondering outside of its premises without its owner. The legislation applies to dogs found at large during the day or night. In the Domestic Animals Act 1994 the term “owner” is defined in respect of a dog or cat. You are considered the owner of the dog even if you are just looking after the animal for a short time.

Your neighbour can seize your dog if they have asked you to control it entering their yard and it continues to do so. They are then able to report you and a formal legal process will begin. To adequately confine your dog to your property there must be an escape proof fence and a closed gate.

Visitors must be able to approach your front door without encountering your dog. Even if your dog has not escaped, you can receive a fine for inadequate housing.

Cases related to this offence will be heard at the Magistrates’ Courts.
 
Elements of the offence
The Prosecution must prove:

  • A dog is found wandering outside the premises of the owner or not securely confined to the owner’s premises; and
  • That the dog is found between sunrise and sunset or sunset and sunrise.
Examples of Dog Found at Large
  • Your pet dog has found a way to escape from your backyard and has done so while you are at work.
  • You have taken your dog for a walk during the evening and while you are talking on the phone you become separated from your dog. You are now no longer aware of your dogs whereabouts and it is found roaming some distance away.
  • Your dog can access the backyards of neighbouring houses and is not a welcome guest.
Legislation
The legislation for this offence of dog found at large between sunrise and sunset is section 24 (1) and (2) of the Domestic Animals Act 1994.
 
Defences to this charge may relate to who is in apparent control of the dog or other issues about proof of the charges. The overall circumstances of a case will determine what will be an appropriate defence to the charge.

If you have been accused of this offence a lawyer would be useful if you were contesting the allegation on principal. The decision on whether you should contest or plead guilty to this charge can be best assessed by a criminal lawyer. Contact one to discuss your case. There is also the possibility of having a case such as this dealt with by way of diversion.
 
If your dog is found at large between sunrise and sunset the offence carries a maximum of 6 penalty units which currently equates to $967.14. If your dog is found at large between sunset and sunrise, the offence carries a fine of 10 penalty units, which is currently equates to $1,611.90. The amount a penalty unit reflects inflation and is reevaluated each financial year.
 
Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts
The Magistrates’ Courts of Victoria heard a total of 3,528 cases (5,023 charges) of Dog Found at Large Between Sunrise and Sunset section 24(1) from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016. These cases have so far resulted in only three sentences: fine (88.9%), adjourned undertaking/discharge/dismissal (10.9%), and Community Correction Order (0.1%).

The Magistrates’ Courts also heard 542 cases (645 charges) of Dogs Found at Large between Sunset and Sunrise section 24(2) from 1 July 2016 and 30 June 2016. In that period, 92.1% of the cases resulted in a fine and 7.9% in adjourned undertaking/discharge/dismissal.
 

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