Issue 49 - Stray Dogs and Cats


Accessing the Companion Animals Register

The Office of Local Government is encouraging vets to become Approved Persons.  Approved Persons are able to carry out online searches of the Companion Animals Register 24 hours a day, 7 days a week specifically for the purpose of re-uniting cats and dogs with their owners. 

For people working in veterinary practices becoming an Approved Person is voluntary and the potential costs and benefits should be carefully considered.

If you choose to become an Approved Person you must submit an Application Form and once approved you must comply with the Guidelines for Approved Persons to Access the Register.  The Application and Guidelines are available from our website.


Seized dogs and cats

The Companion Animals Act 1998 (Act) does not define a dog or cat as stray but provides for circumstances in which dogs and cats can be seized by any person.  

Under the Act, dogs can be seized under a number of circumstances including when in a public place and not under the effective control of a competent person (s 13), when present in a prohibited public place (s 14), when the dog is present on the property of the person seizing the animal (s 18), or in order to prevent damage to property (s 22). 

Under the Act, cats can be seized if present in a prohibited area and the owner is not present or for the cat’s protection (s 30), or for the protection of any person or animal other than vermin (s 32).


What should I do if I am presented with an un-injured seized dog or cat?

If you are an Approved Person you can search the Register to try to find the owner.  If you are unable to contact the owner within 72 hours you must contact the council to arrange for delivery of the animal to the Council Pound. 

If you are not an Approved Person you need to contact the Council to facilitate the cat or dog being returned with its owner as soon as possible.

The Board is aware from the profession that some councils refuse to accept some seized animals (particularly cats) taken to a veterinarian. Councils are not obliged to take stray animals but many do provide this service.  Unfortunately when they refuse there is often a burden on local veterinarians to accept these animals.

Councils are obliged to accept animals that are seized by members of the public and are taken to the council’s pound.


What should I do if I am presented with an injured seized cat or dog?

If the animal is injured the Veterinary practitioners code of professional conduct states that you must provide first aid treatment, timely referral to another veterinarian or euthanasia as appropriate.  The latter requires that you seize the animal under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (s 26AA) and is only possible if the animal is so severely injured, diseased or in such condition that it is cruel to keep it alive.

If you determine that euthanasia is the best course of treatment it is important to ensure you create and maintain accurate records of the injury/illness to document the reason for your decision.

Should first aid be required the animal could be returned to the council pound when ready.

Again, if you are an Approved Person you can search the Register for the purpose of re-uniting the animal with its owner and then discussing the injuries you have been presented with. 

If you cannot establish ownership of the animal or if there is some discrepancy you should notify council as soon as practicable.

If the animal is deceased and has a microchip it would be appropriate to report this to the council as the owners will often call the council looking for their pets.


What should I do if I am presented with a dog or cat that is seized for other reasons?

The Board is aware that animals seized by police may be presented to veterinarians due to various circumstances being faced by their owners such as hospitalisation and incarceration.  

You are not obliged to accept these animals.  If you would like to assist animals with seeking refuge in these circumstances you may consider discussing such cases with the police, local animal shelters and the local council pound.