Dog owner 'brought to tears' after copping $350 fine for 'unfair' rule

Jo Marshall said she simply assumed her dog registration would lapse when she moved.

Dog owner Jo Marshall was "brought to tears" last week after receiving a $350 fine for failing to cancel her pet registration almost three years ago.

The single mum told Yahoo News Australia she did what any other "responsible dog owner would do" and registered her pet Rose with the Sunshine Coast Council in Queensland when she lived in Doonan, near Noosa. However she assumed it would lapse when she moved to country New South Wales in 2020.

"I've only ever known to register your dog and then it just lapses [when you move]. You don't re-register because you don't live there anymore" Jo explained, adding she "just did what [she had] done previously".

According to the council's website, all dogs over the age of three months must be registered in accordance with the Animal Management (Cats & Dogs) Act 2008. Registration must be renewed annually, it states.

Woman Jo Marshall in red dress (left) Woman Jo Marshall with her pet dog (right)
Jo Marshall registered her dog with the Sunshine Coast Council when she lived there in 2020, but failed to renew it when she moved to NSW. Source: Supplied

Hefty fine is 'completely unfair'

But last week, Jo received a notice at her new home from the State Penalties Enforcement Register (SPER) stating her licence would soon be suspended for failing to pay the $348.80 fine — one she claims she was unaware of until now.

"I received nothing up until this letter and [Sunshine Coast Council] obviously has my new address," she said. "I just got this notification giving me two weeks to pay up or have your license suspended."

As a single mum, Jo said it's a struggle for her to come up with the $350 so quickly, especially considering the cost of living crisis. "It's completely unfair. It's just so totally wrong," she said.

Jo said she contacted the Sunshine Coast Council in an attempt to fight the fine but was supposedly told that "nothing can be done". To keep her licence, she has signed up for a payment plan but admits the entire situation has left her "so angry and upset".

Photo of SPER $348.80 fine notice.
Jo received a letter from the State Penalties Enforcement Register (SPER) stating her licence would soon be suspended for failing to pay the $348.80 fine. Source: Supplied

Facebook warning: 'Don't assume'

Jo turned to Facebook to warn Sunshine Coast residents that there's "no way out" of paying the fine should they receive one.

"Word of warning to anyone leaving the area physically cancel your dog registration or 2.5 years later you will get a fine for $350 or they will cancel your driver's license," she wrote. "Don't assume it just lapses like I did."

Hundreds of Queenslanders in the same situation

But to her surprise, she wasn't the only one, with many people responding that the same thing had happened to them. In fact, more than 2,800 Queenslanders received a fine from the State Penalties Enforcement Register (SPER) in the past year for not paying their dog registration fees, the ABC reported in February.

Of those, almost 500 people across the state who failed to pay the registration and the fine lost their driver's licences. More than half of these were reportedly referred to SPER by the Sunshine Coast Council.

Joe Marshall with her dog Rose.
Joe Marshall took to Facebook to warn other pet owners living in the area. Source: Supplied

A SPER spokesperson told the publication that "debtors have multiple opportunities to pay their debt before SPER takes enforcement action", which can include the suspension of driver's licences.

"Fines of this nature are issued by councils and if people want to dispute the fine, they should contact their local council directly," they said. Yahoo News Australia contacted the Sunshine Coast Council for comment.

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