Dangerous Dogs

Dangerous dogs

Dogs are declared dangerous if they have previously attacked, are used for guarding, or have been trained to attack.

Owners of dangerous dogs must follow strict requirements, including:

  • A dangerous dog warning sign must be displayed at all entrances to the property
  • The dog must be leashed and muzzled when outside the property
  • Must wear a dangerous dog collar
  • Dogs to be kept inside a dwelling or enclosure that it cannot escape from to to prevent injuring visitors to the premises.

The outdoor enclosure or backyard the dog is kept in must:

  • have a weatherproof sleeping area
  • contain locks that have self-closing and self-latching mechanisms on any gates into the enclosure, to be locked when the dog is in the enclosure
  • be constructed and maintained in a manner which prevents the dog from being able to dig or otherwise escape under, over or through the perimeter of the enclosure
  • not be situated on premises in such a manner that people have to pass through the enclosure
  • have a minimum floor area of 10 square meters per declared dangerous dog
  • have a perimeter fence with a minimum height of 1.8 meters.

Menacing dogs

Under the Domestic Animals Act 1994, local councils in Victoria may declare a dog to be a menacing if:

  • if it has rushed at or chased a person, or
  • the dog has caused a non-serious bite injury to a person or animal.

To 'rush at' means the dog has approached a person within three metres and displayed aggressive behaviour including:

  • snarling
  • growling
  • barking, and
  • raising the hackles.

Magistrates can also order Council to declare a dog to be a menacing dog, if the owner has been found guilty in court for offences relating to their dog rushing at or chasing a person.

The owner of a declared menacing dog must comply with requirements to prevent the dog from attacking (or causing serious injury) in future. A menacing dog can be upgraded to a dangerous dog if the owner has been issued with two infringement notices for failing to comply with requirements including leashing or muzzling their dog in public.

The owner of a menacing dog must notify Council within 24 hours if:

  • the dog goes missing
  • the dog rushes at or chases a person
  • the ownership of the dog changes
  • the owner's address changes or the place where the dog is kept changes. If there is a change in municipality, owners must inform both their new and old Council within 24 hours of the change.

 Penalties can be imposed on owners for failing to comply with the keeping requirements for a menacing dog. If the owner of the menacing dog is under 18-years of age, the owner will be considered to be their parent or guardian. 

Restricted breed dogs

The Domestic Animals Amendment (Restricted Breed Dogs) Act 2017 came into effect on 30 September 2017.

This Amendment Act amends the Domestic Animals Act 1994 to allow the registration of restricted breed dogs in Victoria. Restricted Breed dogs are defined as dogs that fit the Approved Standard for Restricted Breed Dogs in Victoria (standard). They have not attacked a person or animal or displayed signs of aggression.

Restricted breeds are as follows:

  • Pit Bull Terrier (including cross breeds)
  • Fila Brasileiro
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Perro De Pressa Canario or Presa Canario

The Victorian Government has stated that American Staffordshire Terriers will not be considered a Restricted Breed Dog, if the owner has one of the following certificates stating that the dog is an American Staffordshire Terrier:

  • Pedigree certificate from the Australian National Kennel Council
  • Pedigree certificate from a member body of the Australian National Kennel Council
  • Pedigree certificate from a national breed council registered with the Australian National Kennel Council; or
  • Certificate signed by a veterinary practitioner (note: a microchip or desexing certificate will not be sufficient).

When a dog is declared a restricted breed

Council officers have the power to declare that a dog is a restricted breed.

Within seven days of making a declaration an officer must serve written notice of the declaration on the owner of the dog, either personally or by registered post. The notice will contain information about how owners can apply for a review of the decision, along with the housing and ownership requirements that apply to restricted breed dogs.

Restricted breed dogs need to be kept under the following conditions:

  • The dog must be microchipped and desexed
  • A prescribed restricted breed warning sign must be displayed at all entrances to the property
  • The dog must be leashed and muzzled when outside the property
  • The dog must wear a restricted breed dog collar
  • Dogs to be kept inside a dwelling or an enclosure from it cannot escape from to prevent injury to visitors to the premises.

The owner must also have an outdoor enclosure or backyard that must:

  • have a weatherproof sleeping area;
  • contain self-closing and self-latching locks and mechanisms on any gates into the enclosure, which are kept locked when the dog is in the enclosure;
  • be constructed and maintained in a manner which prevents the dog from being able to dig or otherwise escape under, over or though the perimeter of the enclosure;
  • not be situated on the premises in a way that people have to pass through the enclosure;
  • have a minimum floor area of 10 square meters per restricted breed dog;
  • have a perimeter fence with a minimum height of 1.8 meters;
  • have a minimum width of 1.8 meters;
  • walls fixed to the floor or no more than 50mm from the floor.

In addition, you may be required to use the following construction materials for an outdoor enclosure:

  • 50mm mesh, or weldmesh manufactured from 4mm wire with a maximum spacing of 50mm
  • brick, concrete, timber, iron or similar solid material
  • chain mesh manufactured from 3.15mm wire
  • floor constructed from sealed concrete and graded to a drain for the removal of effluent

The owner of a restricted breed dog must notify Council within 24 hours if:

  • the dog is missing
  • the ownership of the dog changes
  • the owner's address changes
  • the place where the dog is kept changes
  • there is a change in the municipality where the dog is kept - owners must inform both their new and old Council within 24 hours of the change.

A person must not own more than two restricted breed dogs unless that person has a permit to do so from the council of the municipal district in which the dogs are kept.

Transfer of ownership of a restricted breed dog

Declared restricted breed dogs must not be sold, given away or transferred to the ownership of another person.

The exception is when the owner has died the dog may be passed to an immediate family member of the deceased who is over 18 years of age.

Further information may be obtained at Agriculture Victoria on 136 186 or visit the Agriculture Victoria website.