Wild dog policy and legislation considerations

Legal status and management

On 7 June 2017 the National Biosecurity Committee endorsed the Australian Pest Animal Strategy 2017–2027. As highlighted in this nationally agreed strategy, wild dogs cause significant national economic impacts and substantial damage to livestock producers, particularly sheep and goat producers, through predation and disease transfer. Wild dogs are conservatively estimated to now cost Australia’s agricultural sector up to $89 million per year, not to mention the considerable negative environmental and social impacts. As a result of these significant impacts, wild dogs are
considered a priority pest animal.

A five year National Wild Dog Action Plan was developed through the former Vertebrate Pests Committee (now the Environment and Invasives Committee) with all jurisdictions and industry endorsing the plan in May 2014. The National Wild Dog Action Plan, currently being implemented throughout Australia, provides all levels of government, industry and landholders with direction for the national management of wild dogs to minimise their impacts on agricultural biodiversity, the environment and social assets.

Wild dog management is regulated and administered at the state and territory government level and is constrained by certain Commonwealth, state and territory legislation and policy, with various guidelines, codes of practice, and standard operating procedures applying.

Legislation and policy often vary between jurisdictions at local and state levels, with overriding federal laws also affecting wild dog management. There are also other more generic Acts that function across jurisdictions. Violation of laws related to wild dog management can attract serious penalties (eg fines and jail time) for individuals and agencies. In general, the following types of regulations should be considered before beginning any wild dog management activity.

Laws relating to animal welfare

There are laws in every state and territory that address the need to treat all animals humanely, whether they are considered pests or not. People managing wild dogs are obligated to use control methods that minimise any potential pain, fear or distress. These obligations encompass a wide range of activities from the capture and relocation of animals, through to poisoning, shooting
or trapping. Codes of practice, standard operating procedures, and best-practice guidelines for the management of wild dogs have been developed, are publicy available on this website, and should be followed in order to prevent cruelty to animals during control operations.

Laws relating to land tenure

The legal status of wild dogs varies with different land tenures. In many cases, wild dogs are a ‘protected species’ in national parks and conservation reserves, while they are considered ‘declared pests’ in many livestock production areas. Listing wild dogs as protected or declared places certain restrictions and obligations
on those intending to manage wild dogs in a given area. Certain management activities are not legally permissible on all tenures. Permission to access various land tenures should also be considered.

Laws relating to the conservation status of specific wild dog populations

Laws can sometimes vary between specific populations or types of  wild dog. Laws relating to the use of animals for research and teaching Not all wild dog management activities require the destruction of animals, and alternative legislation governs the use
of animals for researching and teaching purposes. Some wild dog management activities might be considered ‘research and teaching activities’ in some jurisdictions, such as the systematic use of camera traps or attaching tracking collars to wild dogs. If this is the case, various additional permits and approvals may be required before management activities can begin.

The EPBC Act also lists the key threatening processes (KTP) known to affect threatened species. Predation by wild dogs has not been recognised as a KTP in national legislation but is recognised as such in New South Wales.

Important to the management of wild dogs, new wild dog control programs might need to be reviewed under the EPBC Act before they are put in place, to assess the program’s risk to threatened species in the area. For example, if wild dog control is to begin in a national park where control has not previously been done, the proposal must be assessed before it can start. Checking with the relevant authorities should first be done to avoid doing the wrong thing.

Laws relating to the keeping, sale, and movement of wild dogs

Because wild dogs may be considered protected or declared, native or introduced, or a risk to livestock or not, laws differ between jurisdictions with respect to the keeping, sale and movement of wild dogs. Different states and territories might or might not allow the keeping of wild dogs as pets. A permit  might be required to do so, and although permitted in one area, wild dogs might not be transportable to another state or tenure. Wild dogs may be seized and euthanised if they are being kept illegally.

Legal obligations on owners of land where wild dogs occur

The responsibility to manage wild dogs rests largely with the owners or managers of the land where wild dogs occur. This presents challenges in places where wild dogs roam between multiple properties, and these are usually sorted out through community wild dog management plans. In places where wild dogs are considered pests, landowners have a responsibility to control wild dogs on their land and prevent them from causing problems on neighbouring lands. On lands where wild dog conservation measures are applied, managers have a responsibility to ensure that wild dogs are not leaving those lands or causing problems in adjacent areas. These obligations apply to private, leased and crown lands. There are likely to be penalties for people and agencies that do not abide by the rules.

EPBC Act considerations

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 oversees the management of vulnerable and endangered native species, populations and ecological communities. The EPBC Act lists all the native species currently at risk from a variety of factors.

More information

  • EPBC Act requirements, see: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/do-you-need-approval
  • New South Wales KTP, see ‘Predation and Hybridisation by Feral Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) – key threatening process listing’ (2009), New South Wales Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (www.environment.nsw.gov.au/determinations/feraldogsFD.htm).
Author Centre for Invasive Species Solutions
Year 2016
Publisher Centre for Invasive Species Solutions
Pages 2 pp
ISBN/ISSN PestSmart code: WDFS3
Region Australia - national
Links https://www.pestsmart.org.au/pest-animal-species/wild-dog/