Frustrated dog owner hit with $288 fine over little-known state law

The Melbourne defended her 'sweet little dog' and claims she had no idea what she did was wrong.

A frustrated dog owner has been slapped with a $288 fine after her "sweet little lap dog" broke a little-known rule in the front yard of her residence.

The Maltese Shih Tzu did not attack anyone, or defecate in a public space — both finable offences across Australia. The dog was simply spotted in the driveway of the property before being dobbed in by a neighbour who snapped a photo of the off-leash pup.

According to Melbourne's Bayside City Council, which issued the fine, it's an offence for pets to not be "securely confined to the owner's premises" and that means roaming around the front garden and the drive is off limits. But Sandringham woman Judy Murphy claims she'd never heard of the rule before and she's "not very happy" about it.

"The council doesn’t have it on their website – I would have expected full disclosure from them as it is a little-known fine," the 79-year-old said, according to Herald Sun. "Perhaps the council could print all laws regarding animal safety on every yearly animal registration (notices)," she added.

Melbourne woman Judy Murphy with pet dog Maltese Shitzu
Melbourne woman Judy Murphy has copped a $288 fine for letting her dog roam in her driveway off-leash. Source: Herald Sun

Council responds to resident's claim

Murphy said her "sweet" dog "wouldn't hurt a fly" and wondered why her neighbour would take issue with the pup. But a spokesperson for the council confirmed the Sandringham resident has been "spoken to multiple times" before following "multiple complaints" to the council about a dog not being confined to the premises.

"[The resident] was aware her dog needed to be secured to the property, to prevent injury, nuisance or attacks from occurring," Bayside Council’s City Planning and Amenity director Matthew Cripps told Yahoo News Australia. "Dog owners need to ensure their dog is secured to their property. Allowing a dog to roam in an unfenced front yard or unsecured open area is an offence against the Domestic Animals Act."

What does the law say?

While other pet owners said the rule was "crazy", the rule applies across the state. Cripps confirmed the penalty is a fixed amount governed by the Domestic Animals Act, which cannot be altered. The Victorian state law stipulates pet owners are "required to securely confine your dog to the property". This means all yards must have a closed gate and an escape-proof fence that your dog cannot jump, get under or through and visitors must also have safe access to your front door without being stopped by your dog.

In NSW, dog owners must take all reasonable precautions to prevent the dog from escaping from the property on which it is being kept. Under the Companions Animals Act 1998, dogs must be kept on a leash in all public spaces, including on the footpath, your dog must be on a leash – except in designated off-leash parks.

Love Australia's weird and wonderful environment? Get our new weekly newsletter showcasing the week’s best stories.

Banner reads 'What on Earth' with 'Subscribe to our new weekly newsletter' and a collage of images of australian natural wildlife.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter.