Seizing and Impounding a Dog Procedure May 2015

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Seizing and Impounding a Dog Procedure

May 2015

The Seizing and Impounding a Dog: Standard Operating Procedure has been prepared by the Local Government Association of SA (LGA) in conjunction with consultant StarrSolutions for the guidance of, and use by, member Councils. The LGA is the statutory peak body for Local Government in South Australia, representing all 68 Councils in the State.

The document was produced with assistance from the Local Government Research and Development Fund and was:

  • developed in 2009

  • revised and updated in February 2015.

Enquiries regarding this publication should be directed to the LGA on 08 8224 2000.

1 Purpose and Scope

Councils are empowered to remove wandering dogs and those that pose a threat to the public. This procedure starts with consideration of the need to seize a dog and covers appropriate actions to deliver the dog to an approved detention facility and ensure its safe detention and/or return to owner. It can follow on from Wandering Dogs Procedure and Dog Attack Procedure.

(NB In many Councils an alternative procedure will be in place for after hours action)

Its purpose is to ensure the consistent and accurate application of relevant legislation, Council Policy and Dog & Cat Management Board Guidelines.

1.1 Responsibility

This procedure applies to persons with valid authorisation under the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995 (see 2 Relevant Documentation) and associated administrative staff.

Officers are required to act reasonably and transparently, demonstrate good customer service, undertake their responsibilities in a proficient manner and use their judgement where necessary to ensure an outcome in line with legal requirements and Council’s Enforcement Policy.

1.2 Legislation & Policy

Dog and Cat Management Act 1995 (DCM Act)

  • Section 5 – Owner of dog

  • Section 6 – Person responsible for control of dog

  • Section 30 – General powers of Dog Management Officers

  • Section 60 – Power to seize and detain dogs

  • Section 61 – Procedure following seizure of a dog

Dog and Cat Management Regulations 1995

Local Government Act 1999

  • Section 125–Internal Control Policies

Dog Aggression Incident Guidelines including Incident Severity Scale (available on the DCM Board secure Council website)

(Council’s) Enforcement Policy

1.3 Definitions

The definitions contained herein are not exhaustive and officers may need to consider the relevant legislation for further applicable definitions.

Owner of dog: has the same meaning as in section 5 of the DCM Act

Person responsible for control of dog: has the same meaning as in section 6 of the DCM Act.

Calculation of time: When calculating the 72 hour statutory period, displaying the notice is the action that initiates the statutory period. Commence counting from the next whole hour after the notice has been displayed and then 72 whole hours. (eg. If a notice is displayed at 9.15am on a Tuesday start counting from 10am. In this example the 72 hours would conclude at 10am on Friday.) See also General Notes below.

NB: Where the calculation ends on a week-end or public holiday, the end time should be moved forward to the next available working day. [ See the Acts Interpretation Act 1915 ]

1.4 General Notes

In this Operating Procedure, a reference to an owner of a dog includes a reference to a person responsible for control of a dog.

Impounding a dog: Where it is possible, ensuring that the dog is returned to a safe environment or registered owner is preferable to impounding the animal. However, officers should not automatically return a dog which has been involved in a serious attack.

Holding time: Contacting Council to retrieve a lost dog can be more difficult after hours, on weekends and public holidays. It is advisable to ensure that impounded dogs are kept secure for a reasonable period, regardless of legislative prescriptions.

If a dog has been seized as part of a dog attack investigation, Council has 7 days in which to serve a Notice of Intent to Issue an Order or make an application to the Magistrates Court Section 61(4) of the DCMA 1995. If the above action has not been taken the dog must be returned to the person entitled to its return

Section 61(2) (a) of the DCM Act prescribes the manner in which Notice of Detention of Dog forms must be displayed continuously for 72 hours which starts from the time the notice is displayed, not the time that the dog is collected.

2 Relevant Documentation

Best Practice Procedures for Appointing Authorised Persons


3 Record Management

All documents, notes, photographs and correspondence must be retained and stored in accordance with Council’s Records Management protocols as required by Section 125 of the Local Government Act 1999.

4 Procedure

4.1 Seizure of dog

Section 60 of the DCM Act allows authorised persons to seize and detain dogs in the following circumstances:

  • If the dog is wandering at large

  • If the officer reasonably believes it necessary to seize the dog to prevent attacks or harassment

  • If the officer reasonably believes that the dog is unduly dangerous

  • If the officer reasonably believes it necessary to detain the dog in order to ensure a destruction or disposal order is carried out

Using Safe operating procedure: handling and capture of stray animals (Attachment A), load the dog into an appropriate Council vehicle.

Use available identification information to establish if the dog is registered. Where the owner can be identified the decision about whether to return the dog or transfer it to a holding facility must be made. [See also Wandering Dogs Procedure where no dog attack or harassment has occurred]

4.1.1 Impound or return to owner after an incident

Consider the severity of any attack/harassment and the temperament of the dog(s).

If, after weighing all relevant factors, an authorised person decides in favour of returning the dog(s) visit the property and ascertain:

  • That a responsible adult is present

  • That the dog(s) would be securely held

  • That a further incident is unlikely/can reasonably be prevented

While there, discuss the possible outcomes with the owner. If there are conditions under which the dog(s) can be left with the owner, explain these and gain agreement to comply. Note reasons for decision.

If not satisfied, transfer the dog(s) to an approved detention facility. Request that the facility not return the dog(s) to the owner until Council has authorised the release.

Advise the owner that the dog(s) will be held pending completion of the investigation which will be undertaken as quickly as possible and definitely within seven days.

4.1.2 Seizing a dog from the owner’s property

If the dog(s) is on the owner’s property and the incident is considered serious enough to warrant seizing the dog(s) pending the outcome of the investigation, discuss action with the Registrar of Dogs. Note that an animal management officer cannot enter a person's property:

  • without the consent of the owner; or

  • without a warrant; or

  • unless the officer believes on reasonable grounds that urgent action is required.

See section 30 of the Dog and Cat Management Act.

If consent to enter the premises cannot be obtain from the owner or occupier obtain a warrant signed by a Justice of the Peace and enlist assistance from the Police before attempting to gain entry to the premises.

4.1.3 Impounding

Ensure induction to the shelter procedure (DCMB “Guideline for the keeping of dogs and cats under the DCM Act 1995 – Management” Attachment B) is followed and documentation is signed by the receiving officer.

Complete Public Notice of Detention of Dog (Form 23 on the DCMB secure website for Councils) for all dogs and if the owner of the dog(s) can be identified also complete Notice to Owner of Detention of Dog (Form 24 on the DCMB secure website).

4.2 Notification of detention

4.2.1 Public Notice

Section 61(2) and (3) of DCM Act requires that notice be given to the public for all dogs detained. This can only be achieved by displaying the Public Notice of Detention of Dog (Form 23 on the secure DCMB website) “at the office of the Council”. The notice must be on display for at least 72 hours before the dog can be considered Council’s property.

NB Conforming with this timeframe does not alter Council’s responsibilities under s61(4) and 63 of the Act to give notice of intent within 7 days if the dog was seized in order to prevent or stop it from attacking or harassing.

Ensure a copy of the notice is retained for Council records.

4.2.2 Notification to owner

Where the owner of the dog(s) can be ascertained deliver a Notice to Owner of Detention of Dog (Form 24 on the DCMB secure website for Councils) advising that the dog has been impounded. This should be done as soon as possible and must be done within 24 hours.

Depending on circumstances it may also be advisable to deliver

4.2.3 Other

If proof of ownership is not established follow Council procedure to place the dog on the lost and found dog register.

The requirement of public notification does not prevent Council from taking other steps to reunite a dog and its owner. Check

and similar sites. Publish a photograph and description of the dog on Council’s website and other outlets such as Facebook.

4.3 Follow up

[Proceed to investigate using Dog Attack and Harass Procedure or refer to Wandering Dogs Procedure as appropriate]

Before releasing a dog establish proof of ownership and registration.

Depending on the circumstances take appropriate action, such as issuing a warning or expiation or investigating an unregistered dog.

See Expiating Offence Procedure

4.4 Releasing a Seized Dog

When a decision is made to release a dog ensure that the detention facility is advised in writing as soon as possible.

Inform the owner of the conditions of release, including all fees which must be paid upon collection. Ensure the owner is also aware of any orders and/or expiations which will apply and the full cost of these.

5 Monitoring and Review of Procedure

This procedure was endorsed by ______________________________to take effect on __________________________

Thereafter it will be reviewed annually. The next date of review is__________

6 Attachments

Attachment A

Safe operating procedure: handling and capture of stray animals

Attachment B

DCMB Guideline for the keeping of dogs and cats under the DCM Act 1995 – Management

Attachment C

Requirements to Collect an Impounded Dog

7 Best Practice Notes

  • All Councils should adopt an Enforcement Policy to provide officers with a framework within which to make decisions and exercise judgement

  • Ensure that officers are easily recognised, wear badges and display valid authorisations

  • A records management protocol should ensure that all actions taken by officers are stored and that appropriate history is available to officers (e.g. by property, registered dog)

  • Taking photographs to record events can reduce disputation. A procedure for storing photographs should be included in the above protocol

  • Officers who enforce statutory provisions can benefit from customised Customer Service training

  • Service standards provide officers with realistic timeframes within which to respond and complete tasks

  • Transparency to the public can be enhanced by publishing service standards, policies and standard operating procedures

  • Owners may be distressed over the disappearance of their dog and contact should be made as soon as possible

  • Pound times vary as do the conditions which must be met before collection, so a guide sheet for owners will help to ensure that consistent information is provided

  • Fines under the DCM Act can be expensive. Council may have a policy with criteria to consider requests for leniency on the basis of hardship

  • Available hardship provisions should be explained to owners who may not be able to afford to retrieve the dog.

  • All Council staff should be encouraged to report sightings of wandering dogs

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