Working Dogs in Rural NSW

A working dog is a dog used primarily for the purpose of droving, tending, working or protecting stock, and includes a dog being trained as a working dog.

Hunting dogs and guard dogs do not have any special status as working dogs under the Companion Animals Act 1998. Just because an animal is kept for purposes other than of a pet, does not necessarily mean it is a ‘working dog’.

Under the Companion Animals Act 1998, dogs that meet the definition of a ‘working dog’ are exempt from micro chipping and registering when:

  • The working dog resides on land defined and rates as farmland under the Local Government Act 1993, or
  • The working dog is kept in the western Division of NSW, being not within a local government area.

All working dogs are exempt from wearing a collar and tag while actively working on their owner’s property.

The exemption from microchipping and lifetime registration for working dogs may be lost in the following circumstances;

  • If the dog is seized and impounded;
  • If the dog is declared dangerous;
  • If the dog is the subject of a nuisance order;
  • If the dog ceases to be a working dog.

Dog Attacks in Rural NSW

Farmers are the backbone of rural Australia. Dog attacks from both wild dogs and from dogs that are not properly controlled by their owners can have a negative impact on a farmer’s livelihood. It is estimated that dog attacks on livestock cost farmers thousands of dollars each year in lost income.

Wild dog populations comprise of dingoes, feral dogs and crossbreeds of the two.

Dog attacks, whether by wild dogs or domestic pets, not only kill livestock, but can also reduce sheep flock production. Other impacts and threats believed to be associated with dog attacks include:  

  • Emotional stress affecting landholders who deal with killed and injured stock.
  • A change in livestock farming form sheep to cattle, which in turn may affect land management issues such as weed control;
  • A decline in farming profitability, particularly where farmers have switched from sheep to cattle to avoid heavy stock losses.

It is important that dog owners don’t contribute to the problems that wild dogs cause by letting their own dogs roam free. It is an offence under the Companion Animals Act 1998 for a dog to be in a public place and not under the proper control of its owner.

Why do dogs attack?

Lack of socialisation can often result in fearful or aggressive behaviour.

The optimum time to socialise is before the dog reaches 4 months of age

Irrespective of whether your dog is a large ‘guard’ breed of a fluffy little lapdog, ALL dogs have what is called a ‘prey drive’ and a natural instinct to chase another animal that moves – even the best trained and well socialised ones.

Dog owners must not allow their dogs to roam free in public places, unless in a designated off-leash area established by the council and under the control of its owner.

The owner of a dog who allows it to attack and/ or injure or kill livestock is liable for the cost of the veterinary treatment for those injured animals.

The owner of the injured or killed livestock may take action against the dog owner to recover the cost of lost animals.

Under section 22 of the Act, a farmer or their employee may lawfully seize and detain a dog on a property if they reasonably believe the dog may injure or kill livestock being farmed on that property.

This includes injuring or destroying the dog in order to prevent the attack and loss of stock. 

What can you do to prevent your dog attacking livestock?

You can help prevent farmers from loosing their livelihood by being a responsible pet owner and doing the following:

Do not allow your dog to roam, especially with other dogs;

  • Make sure your fences are in good order and keep you dog in the yard;
  • Ensure your dog is well cared for and well fed – bored and hungry dogs go looking for fun and food;
  • Make sure your dog is desexed as it will be less likely to roam;
  • Don’t allow your dog to chase other animals such as birds and native animals for fun;
  • Train your dog to be obedient and socialise with other animals in a controlled environment.