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On Lead or Off Lead

What is my legal responsibility?

Legal Responsibility - The Companion Animals Act 1998 No.87 Section 13 - NSW Legislation

Keep your dog on leash!

  • ‘Dogs must be kept on a leash in all public places. This means that when you are outside your home, including on the footpath, your dog must be on a leash – except in designated off-leash parks.’

This legally means that you should be always aware of your dog’s actions and interactions.

  • ‘A dog that is in a public place must be under the effective control of some competent person by means of an adequate chain, cord or leash.’

You are required to have effective control of your dog when it is off the leash. 

Your dog should respond to your commands and should not disturb or threaten other people or animals.

Simple? It’s incredibly simple! 

    • So, when you go for a walk, WHY do you see so many dog owners and dog walkers breaking this law?
    • Dog owners don’t seem to understand or don’t seem to think that the laws apply to them.
Some things to remember
    • Be considerate to other dogs and their owners;
    • Be aware of your dog and their actions at all times;
    • It is not your decision to let your dog rush up to other dogs or people. Ask!
    • Obtain consent first. Ask if your dog can greet another dog or person;
    • Watch your dog. Are they interacting appropriately? Do they have nice manners?
Why do some dog owners struggle with OFF LEAD and CONSENT?

When interviewing dog guardians about WHY they let their dogs off lead, their answers fell into these categories: 

    1. My walk is so much nicer when I don't have to teach my dog to heel beside me;
    2. My walk is so much nicer when I don't have to stop all the time whilst my dog sniffs; 
    3. My walk is so much nicer when I don't have to manage my dog; 
    4. I love to see my dog run around free; 
    5. My dog is so friendly I want him to be happy meeting people and dogs; 
    6. He's no harm to anyone! 

These dog guardians are considering THEIR OWN and THEIR DOG’S enjoyment.



There is an argument that we need more public access to open park areas for dogs.  This is a relevant issue, but OFF LEAD AREAS ARE NOT EXCLUSIVE TO DOGS. This means that CONSENT issues come back into play. 

In SHARED OFF LEAD AREAS, dog owners still need to understand this and be compliant and considerate of others using the area. It is essential to manage your dog and to ask CONSENT for any interaction before your dog is taken off lead. CONSENT is also required before you and your dog approach other dogs and people.


Leads don’t make dogs well behaved. This this is the responsibility of the owners.


Responsible Dog Owners

Well-behaved dog owners:

    • Obey the ON LEAD and OFF LEAD laws; 
    • Pick up their dog’s faeces and dispose of it in the appropriate way;
    • Humanely interact with their dog so as to keep their dog engaged with them;
    • Have a dog that is responsive to being called away from exploring, sniffing, and playing; 
    • Have a dog that wants to be with them; 
    • Gain consent from other dogs’ owners before allowing their dog to play with other dogs;
    • Watch and manage play as necessary to ensure both dogs are enjoying it;
    • Ensure that their dog does not solicit attention when people or dogs pass by; 
    • Step to the side with their dog when passing other people and other dogs; 
    • Don’t allow the public to pat their dog without having consent.
So…ON Lead or OFF LEAD?
    • The easiest way to have your dog under legal and EFFECTIVE CONTROL is to put them ON LEAD.
    • EFFECTIVE CONTROL also infers to how well your dog behaves. It is YOUR responsibility. Train your dog!
    • The best way to enjoy a walk with your dog is to have them ON LEAD. 
    • Only let them OFF LEAD in a designated area and with the CONSENT of any other users of the space.
    • Ensure that your dog’s interactions are MANAGED and remain LOW STRESS for everyone.
DOG LEAD ETIQUETTE will be covered in another post

Louise Newman

Let’s GO Fido


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