Domestic Animal Management Plan

Councils across Victoria are required to produce a Domestic Animal Management Plan. The Plan provides the framework within which we identify and address issues relating to the management and wellbeing of pets over a period of four years.

The Domestic Animal Management Plan 2021-2025(PDF, 3MB) was adopted by the Council on 23 February 2022. It promotes responsible pet ownership and continues to develop how we benefit from and how we value pet ownership. 

The Act only requires the Council to outline how we manage cats and dogs.

Purpose of the Plan

  • We value pets and the role they play in our community. The purpose of this plan is to set out how we deliver harmony between pets, people, other animals and the environment. 
  • We balance the needs of pet owners with the needs of the community as a whole. 
  • We value and respect the pets that share people’s lives.
  • We recognise the positive health and wellbeing outcomes that arise from pet ownership. 
  • We encourage more people to enjoy animal companionship.



Under Section 68A of the Domestic Animals Act 1994 (the Act), all Councils must produce a Domestic Animal Management Plan. The Act sets out requirements for the plan. All Councils need to comply with those requirements. Some of these requirements include that the Council shows how it will: 

  • Evaluate how effective their service is
  • Review and amend the Plan annually or more frequently if required
  • Review policies and local laws
  • The Act requires the Council to show how it develops and delivers strategies that: 
  • Promote and encourage responsible pet ownership
  • Ensure people comply with the Act and other relevant legislation, including Benalla Rural City Council’s Community Local Law 2017 (Local Law)
  • Minimise the risk of dog attacks
  • Addresses overpopulation and minimises euthanasia rates
  • Work with domestic animal businesses to comply with legislation
  • Review our animal management services, programs, procedures and policies
  • Ensure the Council’s authorised officers receive appropriate training
  • Identify and address emerging or community-specific issues across Benalla Rural City
  • Ensure ‘declared animals’, as defined by the Act, are managed according to relevant legislation
  • Continue to reunite lost animals with their owners, reducing pound costs and euthanasia rates
  • Minimise the incidence of nuisance, such as wandering or noise
  • Promote the benefits of desexing dogs and cats
  • Outline the management of animals during times of disaster


How we developed the 2021-2025 Domestic Animal Management Plan

The Domestic Animal Management Plan 2021-2025(PDF, 3MB) sets out how the Council complies with legislation, including the Act and the Council’s Community Local Law 2017

The Benalla Rural City Domestic Animal Management Plan was developed as an operational document by Authorised Officers of the compliance team, over-viewed by the Manager Development, utilising current data and statistics available through Council and publicly accessible research and reporting.

The draft document was subject to a community consultation process and Council review for further evaluation and adjustment before presentation to Council for approval and adoption before submission to the Minister.

We engaged with the community through listening posts, social and print media, encouraging residents to complete a survey and to have their say on specific animal management issues, including: 

  • how we enforce legislation
  • how we educate the community about responsible pet ownership
  • how to maximise pet registration levels
  • whether cat owners should be required to confine their cats to their property
  • the requirements for dog owners to use a leash when walking their dog within the municipality

Survey results as well as other ideas and contributions from community members, Council officers, key industry and welfare groups and industry experts were considered and informed the draft plan.

In developing this plan, we considered how previous plans had worked, how the community’s expectations had changed, and how we had performed against the previous plan’s goals and objectives. 

The process of consulting with the community is continuous. Community engagement and consultation will continue to inform the Plan throughout the four-year period. 


New rules applying to cat and dog ownership

As part of the Domestic Animal Management Plan 2021-2025 adopted by Council, several orders have been made and resolved under Section 25(2) and 26(2) of the Domestic Animals Act 1994 that now apply to dog and cat ownership in the Rural City of Benalla.

Such orders were made following a lengthy community consultation, engagement and feedback period from November to December 2021.

We will inform pet owners and visitors of the new requirements throughout 2022.

Council’s first approach for those not doing the right thing, will be to caution and educate, however fines may be issued to those who fail to comply and consistently demonstrate irresponsible pet ownership.

Responsible dog ownership

The Domestic Animal Management Plan 2021-2025 stipulates several orders around responsible dog ownership.

Dogs must be on a leash in all public spaces in Benalla Rural City, except for the designated off-leash areas (see map below)

This means dogs are to be restrained by way of cord, chain or leash not exceeding 3 metres, whenever outside of the property at which they are kept.

Even in an “off-leash” area, dogs must be put on a leash if they are within 30 metres of an organised sporting activity, a picnic or BBQ area ‘in use’, or an organised meeting such as an event held in a park. Dogs must always be on a leash within 10 metres of a playground and are not allowed to enter a children’s playground at all.

If visiting a designated off-leash area, for the safety of your dog and the wider community your pet must always be under effective control, and you must always carry a leash. Effective control means your dog must be within 50 metres of you, returns to you immediately when called and can be placed on a leash if required.

Dog Off Leash Areas

Cat confinement

The Domestic Animal Management Plan 2021-2025 states that cats must be confined to the property of their owners at all times.

Research indicates confining cats improves their health, safety and longevity, with confined cats generally living up to three times longer than cats that roam freely.

Confining cats to their home also prevents beloved pets becoming lost, injured by car accidents, fighting with other felines, contracting fatal diseases and producing unwanted litters of kittens.

If given the opportunity, we know cats will instinctively hunt and kill wildlife, even if they are not hungry.

Contrary to popular belief, provided their basic needs are met, cats can enjoy longer and healthier lives when confined to a safe place twenty-four hours a day.

Council and your local vet can provide support and information on where to confine your cat (in the house, in an enclosure, or by ‘cat proofing’ your fences) and importantly how to train your cat to accept confinement.



Provide feedback on the Plan and the Section 25 and 26 Orders

You can provide feedback following Council’s adoption of the Domestic Animal Management Plan 2021-2025 and the associated Section 25 and 26 Orders.

In line with Council policy, the community can raise concerns and/or issues by:

  • submitting questions to a Council meeting
  • submitting petitions that meet Council’s requirements
  • writing letters or emailing Councillors at

For Information on how to create a petition and ask Council a question go to our Meeting Procedures page.