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Dog ownership

Buller District Council encourages good dog ownership across the district. It is important that we encourage and support dog owners to be responsible dog owners. By doing this we can promote safety in our community.

Things you need to know

Owning a dog (or any pet) comes with responsibility. Pets are an important part of family life for many people. We have compiled some key information to provide you with guidance what your responsibilities are. 

First and foremost, all dogs need to be registered.

You can find out more about how to go about that on our Dog Registration page, but in short:

  • If you keep a dog, then it must be registered.
  • Registration needs to be renewed annually and must be paid by 31 July each year.
  • Ensure that your dog wearing a current registration tag at all times.
  • Puppies must be registered before they reach 3 months of age.

Dogs can be registered at Council Offices in Westport and Reefton during normal office hours, 8.30 am - 4.30 pm Monday to Friday, or email 

If the ownership of a dog is changed, the registration of the dog continues in force, but the previous owner and the new owner must advise Council of the changes within 14 days.

Owning a dog (or any pet) comes with responsibility. Pets are an important part of family life for many people. As well as providing companionship, affection and fun, having a pet can provide children with an opportunity to learn about responsibility.

Dogs involve some extra work and cost and as the dog’s owner you are responsible for your animals’ well-being.

Owners must ensure their dog receives proper care and attention. This means providing adequate food, water, shelter and exercise. Be sure to keep your dog's vaccinations and worm treatments up to date. Your local vet will be able to help with a schedule.

Dogs may be exercised free of restraining devices under the owner’s constant observation and voice control in the following areas:

  • River edges, beach frontage, including dune areas, (excluding conservation areas).
  • The Westport Domain, Brougham Street Domain, the southern end of Carters Beach Domain.
  • In Reefton, the Strand, adjacent to the racecourse on the Crampton Road reserve and the old cemetery on Buller Road Leash control areas.

Dogs must be on a leash in all urban areas, parks (not identified as exercise areas or prohibited areas) or any area where the dog (if not on a leash) may injure, intimidate or cause distress to any other people, domestic animals, stock, poultry or protected wildlife.

There are also specific areas such as children’s playgrounds where all dogs (with the exception of those carrying out their function as a working dog as defined by the legislation) are prohibited.

Don't forget to take something with you to remove faeces when exercising your dog, eg a pooper scooper or plastic bag. Failing to do so may result in a fine. 

De-sexing your dog makes it cleaner, easier to handle, less likely to roam, more socially acceptable, less aggressive, and less likely to suffer from diseases such as testicular and ovarian cancer. The Council encourages de-sexing by offering discounts on registration fees for neutered and spayed dogs.

Dog obedience training is a positive way of spending time with your dog. It can also help you comply with the responsible dog owner practices.

The SPCA has some great tips on dog training.

Rules and regulations - The Dog Control Act 1996 requires owners to keep their dogs under control at all times. This includes on your property and when out in public.

As a dog owner, under the Dog Control Act 1996 you must:

  • Register your dog
  • Keep your dog under control at all times
  • Comply with bylaws
  • Ensure that your dog receives proper care and attention, is supplied with sufficient food, water, shelter and receives adequate exercise
  • Take all reasonable steps to ensure your dog does not injure, intimidate or otherwise cause distress to any person
  • Owners must muzzle their dogs in public if they are classified as menacing or dangerous
  • Owners must accept liability for damage done by their dog
  • Anyone taking a dog out in public is required to use or carry a leash at all times
  • Owners must ensure that dogs on their land or property are under the direct control of a person or confined within the property so that they cannot leave of their own free will.

For full details of your responsibilities as a dog owner, please check the requirements of the Dog Control Act 1996 or speak to one of our Animal Management Officers on 03 788 9111 or 0800 807 239.

The West Coast’s beautiful beaches are also home to precious coastal wildlife and bird species. You can do your bit to help protect them.

Dogs can be walked along the beach as long as:

  • They are under direct control at all times (i.e. on a leash, or under voice control).
  • They are not permitted to roam in the dunes, scrub and coastal forests above the high tide mark.
  • They are kept close after dusk, which is when penguins travel between the sea and their burrows.
  • Dogs and white baiting (or fishing) really do not mix and the best thing you can do is leave your dog at home. If you must bring them, aim to secure on a long leash or rope so that they cannot wander and pose a risk to wildlife and other people.

Note, if you own a dog and live within 200 metres of the beach, it is important that you comply with Dog Control laws which state that a dog must be contained and unable to roam away from your section. Penguins and other coastal wildlife often nest 200 metres or more inland, and close to or even under houses.

In New Zealand, the legislation regarding animal welfare is the Animal Welfare Act 1999. It is a very wide-ranging act that deals with offences in the handling and management of animals (including birds). Common offences include failing to provide an animal with adequate food, water and shelter, deliberate acts of cruelty towards an animal and failing to seek necessary veterinary advice.

Sometimes people find themselves in the unfortunate position of being unable to keep their pet. The decision to rehome your pet can be an extremely tough one and it may be for reasons out of your control. You can find out about rehoming options from the SPCA.

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