South Australia’s New Dog & Cat Laws

Updated March 9, 2021

The biggest change to dog and cat ownership law ever will happen on July 1st. If you live in or have moved to SA, here’s how it will affect you and what you need to do. For everyone else, I think you’ll find this unique experiment very interesting.

I’m not going to talk about the reasons behind the changes, or my views (you can find all that here). Instead I’ll focus on essential information that each category of dog and cat owner needs now.

First, a summary of the changes.

South Australia’s New Dog & Cat Laws

  • Compulsory microchipping for all dogs & cats over 12 weeks of age
  • Compulsory desexing for most dogs & cats
  • Compulsory breeder registration
  • Centralised, statewide dog registration
  • Cat registration

Vets are not going to ask or enforce these laws. Here’s how the changes affect you.

Dogs Born Before July 1, 2018

You have the easiest job. You will receive a letter from your council after July 1 and your details should be transferred automatically. All you need to do is use the provided login details to check everything is correct on the DACO database from 2 July. If your microchip number is unknown, see cats below.

You should receive a new permanent disc in the mail with your dog’s lifetime registration number. If you do not hear anything by late August, contact your council. From now on, it will be up to you to keep the database up to date.

You do not have to desex your dog if not already done but you do need to make sure a microchip is inserted. In the months of July and August we are offering reduced price microchips, as are many other organisations.

Unregistered Puppies Born Before July 1, 2018

This small group is tricky. At the very least, you’ll need to do the same as cat owners below.

Once again, you are not required to desex or neuter, only microchip by 12 weeks old. It seems the logical time to register your pet on the DACO database, with which the implanter can assist. At later desexing, your vet will then update the details.

Cats Born Before July 1, 2018

This will probably be the biggest shock. Up to now, most councils have not required registration of cats. All cats must now be recorded on the DACO database.

Cat owners now need to create a new entry for their cat and enter their microchip details. This is usually free of charge, but some councils now request a fee. Read a list of SA councils who have cat registration and other laws here.

Microchip number documents are provided at the time of implantation or sale. The number is often also recorded on your vaccination or desexing certificate. If you can’t find it, drop in to a vet to have your pet scanned. DACO is only used in SA so we will also check the chip on its national database. Click here for more information on checking microchip details.

You do not have to desex your cat if not already done but you do need to make sure a microchip is inserted by 12 weeks of age. In the months of July and August we are offering reduced price microchips, as are many other organisations.

New Puppies and Kittens

This is also very easy. Your breeder will register the litter with DACO and transfer the ownership into your name. Once again, all you need to do is go online and check the details are correct.

The organisation doing the desexing or microchipping will update the database on your behalf at the time.

You will be required to desex by 6 months of age. Exemptions apply for:

  • Working Livestock Dogs as per the definition in the Act
  • Dogs SA, FASA or Cat Fancy of SA members (i.e. breeders)
  • Greyhounds currently registered to Greyhound Racing SA
  • Animals exempted by vets for health reasons (maximum interval 18 months without renewal)

Dog & Cat Breeders

From July 1, all breeders selling dogs or cats will need to be registered through DACO. They will also need to be members of recognised dog or cat breeder associations in order to keep undesexed animals. Additionally, there are now strict rules on the information provided by breeders in advertising and at point of sale.

Sadly, a loophole enables puppy farms that would be illegal here to sell their puppies via Adelaide pet shops. Please do what you can to stop this.

Assistance Dogs

The categories for assistance dogs have now been defined under the new legislation. Although unclear to me, it appears that this information will also be included with your dog’s registration details. Contact your relevant organisation for more details.

As I learn more, I will update the information. Watch this space!

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.