Owning a dog

It is rewarding owning a dog, but it can be expensive. Dogs need company, care and plenty of exercise. New Zealand has rules around dog ownership to protect our dogs and the general public.




As a dog owner, you must:

  • register your dog with your local council and get it microchipped
  • keep your dog under control at all times
  • ensure your dog is in good physical health and that you meet its natural behavioural needs
  • ensure your dog has food, water and shelter.

Each local council has their own rules around looking after dogs. You may find more information under 'Recreation' on our regional pages, or on your local council’s website.

Regions & cities


In 2015, the NZ Companion Animal Council estimated that caring for a dog costs around $1,686 NZD a year. Make sure you are prepared to pay the costs before you decide to have a dog.

The cost of owning a dog can include:

  • registration and microchipping fees
  • food and shelter
  • vet care
  • day care while you work or full-time care while you travel.

Registering and microchipping

All dogs over three months old must be microchipped. They must also be registered with the local council each year by 1 July. Owners of unregistered dogs can be fined.

All dogs must wear the registration disc or strap provided when the dog is registered.

Any vet can assist with inserting a microchip. It is quite painless and permanently identifies the dog and its owner on the National Dog Database (NDD). Chips help dogs that are lost or stolen to be returned to their owners and enable councils to track dogs that have caused problems before. 

Registering and microchipping | Dog Safety


Dog on a beach

Animal welfare

The law requires that you take good care of your dog. It must be healthy and free from distress and pain.

If your dog is sick or injured, you must get appropriate medical care. You should also plan for what you would do about your dog in the event of a natural disaster, like an earthquake.

By staying up to date with vaccinations, flea, tick and worming treatments, you can keep your dog healthy. As a responsible pet owner, you should have your dog de-sexed to prevent the birth of unwanted puppies.

Public safety around dogs

All local councils have dog by-laws to promote public health and safety. These laws can ban dogs from specified public spaces or require that they are leashed. Councils can also set up areas where dogs can be exercised off the leash. 

Dog owners are expected to pick up dog soil if their dog toilets in a public area. Most dog owners carry plastic bags with them for this purpose. 

If your dog displays threatening behaviour toward people, other animals or wildlife, it can be classified as 'menacing' or 'dangerous'. You may be required to keep it in a fully-fenced area at home and have it de-sexed. When in public, it may be required to wear a muzzle on its face. Some breeds of dog are automatically classified as menacing. 

Disability assist dogs

Dogs that have been trained to assist people with disabilities and have the recognised certification are allowed to enter many places where dogs are generally banned. To find out about the process for certification, contact the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).

Guidelines for Disability Assist Dogs | DIA

Being a responsible dog owner

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) runs animal centres, a pet adoption service and education programmes for dog owners. It also employs inspectors who have a range of roles, including law enforcement.

Your local council, SPCA centre or vet should be able to advise you about dog obedience classes. 

Some councils offer discounted dog registration rates if the owner meets their requirements to qualify as a responsible dog owner.


Bringing pets into New Zealand

To prevent the arrival of pests and diseases into New Zealand, all pets from overseas must meet certain health requirements to enter the country. The entry requirements depend on the type of animal and the country it is coming from.

You can only bring your dog into New Zealand if it comes from an approved country. Approved countries are grouped into three categories based on their rabies status.

If you want to bring your dog from a country that is not on the approved list, then you will not be able to bring it into New Zealand.

Make sure you can bring in (import) your dog successfully

If you want to import your dog into New Zealand, it must be cleared for entry before it arrives. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is responsible for ensuring all animals entering New Zealand meet the import requirements.

When you are planning your move, make sure you know what to do to import your dog successfully and you meet all the import requirements.

For full details and all the documents you need, visit the MPI website below.

Pets | MPI

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