By: Jonathan Osborn
Keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of laws and regulations can be a daunting task, but when it comes to being a responsible pet owner, it is essential to stay informed.
Like any legal system, the laws governing dogs in South Africa undergo periodic updates and revisions. In 2022, there were noteworthy amendments to these laws that demand the attention of all dog owners.
One notable change pertains to the enforcement of stricter penalties for dog owners found in violation of regulations. This encompasses the imposition of fines and, in certain circumstances, the possibility of imprisonment. Another amendment concerns the imposition of more stringent regulations concerning dog breeding and sales. The focus is on ensuring that puppies are not bred in conditions that are detrimental to their well-being.
Moreover, the regulations concerning breeds of dogs considered to be potentially dangerous have been revised. Owners of specific breeds, such as Pit Bulls and Boerboels, are now obligated to register their dogs with the relevant authorities. Additionally, they must adhere to enhanced safety measures, including the mandatory use of muzzles when in public areas.
Here, we break down the most crucial laws related to pets in South Africa to help you be a law-abiding and conscientious pet parent.
- The Animals Protection Act, No. 71 of 1962
This Act is the cornerstone of animal welfare in South Africa. It outlines what constitutes cruelty to animals, which includes actions such as releasing animals in ways that endanger them, abandoning pets, keeping animals in unsanitary conditions, and neglecting veterinary care when needed.
A few key obligations of pet owners outlined in the Animals Protection Act are:
- Licensing and Registration:
Every dog must undergo licensing and registration with the appropriate authorities. This process includes presenting evidence of vaccination and sterilization, along with the annual fee payment.
Dogs must consistently wear collars featuring identification tags containing their owner’s contact details.
It is the responsibility of dog owners to ensure their pets remain under control at all times, whether leashed or off-leash. Dogs must not be allowed to roam freely or disrupt others, as per the local municipality’s by-laws.
- Health and Welfare:
Dog owners are obligated to provide their pets with sufficient food, water, shelter, and medical attention. Additionally, they must maintain a clean and hygienic living environment for their dogs.
- Training and Socialization:
To prevent aggressive behaviour towards people and other animals, dogs must undergo proper training and socialization.
As a responsible pet owner, you must ensure your furry friends are well-cared for and protected from harm.
- The Animal Matters Amendment Act, No. 42 of 1993
The AMAA addresses situations where negligence on the part of a pet owner leads to their animal causing harm to others. If your pet injures someone due to your negligence, you can be held criminally responsible, facing either a fine or imprisonment of up to two years. Remember, part of responsible pet ownership is ensuring your pets are well-trained and under control.
- The Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act, No. 8 of 2011
If you live in a sectional title complex and wish to keep a pet, you’ll need written consent from the trustees of the Body Corporate. It is essential to adhere to any conditions they set and be aware that consent can be withdrawn if you fail to comply. Responsible pet ownership in shared spaces is all about being considerate of your neighbours.
Local authorities often establish by-laws that pertain to pet ownership. These by-laws address various issues, including the management of public areas, noise control, and environmental concerns. Keep an eye out for any restrictions on the number of pets you can have, and be sure to follow these rules to be a considerate neighbour.
- Common Law
Common law principles, based on customs and legal precedents, also play a role in pet ownership. One relevant principle is the doctrine of actio de pauperie, which holds pet owners strictly liable for damages caused by their pets. As a pet owner, it’s essential to prevent your pets from causing harm to others or their property.
In 2018, the High Court of Port Elizabeth handed down a hefty judgment in favour of a Plaintiff relying on action de pauperie for damages in the amount of R2 341 000.00 after being attacked by the Defendant’s Pitbulls. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the judgment handed down by the High Court (Van Meyeren v Cloete (636/2019)  ZASCA 100).
Being a responsible pet owner goes hand-in-hand with understanding and adhering to the laws and regulations that govern pet ownership. By staying informed and complying with these laws, you can ensure the well-being of your pets, the safety of others, and a harmonious community for everyone.