Dog owner responsibilities

Be a responsible dog owner

Nelson City Council is committed to helping residents be responsible dog owners. 

You'll find our Dog Ownership Information brochure (8.4MB PDF) has good information on your responsibilities as a dog owner, including where you can exercise your dog on and off-lead, as well as areas that are prohibited to dogs. 

Dog control bylaw

Read and understand Council's Dog Control Policy and Bylaw 221.

Important dog laws

Control of dogs (Sections 52, 53 and 54A, Dog Control Act 1996 )

The owner of a dog must keep the dog under control at all times and, when in a public place, must use or carry a leash at all times. A dog will be treated as not being under control:

  • If it is found at large on any land or premises other than a public place or a private way without the consent (express or implied) of the occupier or person in charge of the land or the premises; or
  • If it is found at large in any public place or in any private way in contravention of any regulations or bylaw.

Failure to comply with these provisions is an offence and owners will be liable on conviction to fines not exceeding $3000.

Obligations of dog owner generally (Section 54, Dog Control Act 1996)

The owner of a dog must:

  • Ensure that the dog receives proper care and attention and is supplied with proper and sufficient food, water, and shelter; and
  • Ensure that the dog receives adequate exercise.

Failure to comply with these provisions is an offence and owners will be liable on conviction to 3 months imprisonment of a fine not exceeding $5,000. 

Obligations of dog owner on owner's property (Sections 52A, Dog Control Act 1996)

The owner of a dog must ensure, when the dog is on land or premises occupied by the owner:

  • That the dog is under the direct control of a person; or
  • That the dog is confined within the land or premises in such a way that it cannot freely leave the land or premises.

Failure to comply with these provisions is an offence and owners will be liable on conviction to a fine of $3,000.  In addition, a dog control officer or dog ranger may seize and impound the dog.

Register your dog with Council

All dogs three months of age and older must be registered. Once registered, the registration is required to be renewed annually by 30 June. Failure to register a dog three months of age and older will incur an infringement fine as well as late registration fee.

Find out more about dog registration and updating your existing dog registration.

Exercise your dog in approved areas

You may exercise your dog off lead in any areas not listed as prohibited or on-lead areas.

Dogs are Prohibited in these places:
  • Nelson Airport (unless transporting dogs for air lift out of Nelson; or dogs securely restrained in the owner's vehicle)
  • Eastern two thirds of Tahunanui main beach
  • The playing area on Council sports grounds
  • The play area in children's playgrounds
  • Nelson City Council Water Works Reserves (unless you have a permit) - Maitai Valley - Brook Valley - Roding
  • Any public building owned or controlled by the Council. (Except Trafalgar Centre or Stoke Hall when a function involving dogs is being held.)
  • Haulashore Island
  • Oyster Island
  • Haven Holes Reserve
  • Whakapuaka Raupo Swamp
  • Fenced areas at Paremata Flats
  • Sand Island
  • These Maitai River swimming holes:
    • Black Hole Picnic Area
    • Dennes Hole and Picnic Area
    • Sunday Hole and Camp Area
    • Maitai Camp Hole and Picnic Area
  • Any Department of Conservation land (not foreshore or sea bed) without authorisation, for example a dog control permit, (unless the area is specifically provided for in the Dog Control Policy)
  • The beaches and estuary flat of Nelson Haven bounded by the Boulder Bank Scenic Reserve (to the west) and Boulder Bank Drive (to the east) for a distance of 500m along each of those boundaries
  • The Boulder Bank Scenic Reserve, from October to February, from 4 km from the intersection of Boulder Bank Drive and the Boulder Bank Scenic Reserve, to the Cut.
Dogs must be on a lead in these areas:
  • Public footpaths and other public areas in the Central Business District and the Suburban Commercial Areas of Tahunanui, and Stoke
  • Maitai Valley Walkway between Salt Water Creek and Collingwood Street
  • Neighbourhood reserves - excluding those listed in Schedule 3 as off-lead areas
  • Anzac Park, Isel Park (part only), Church Hill, Queens Gardens, Melrose Gardens, Broadgreen Rose Gardens and Miyazu Japanese Gardens
  • Nelson cemeteries
  • Council sports grounds when games or training sessions are occuring
  • The Maitai walkway, from the river mouth up to the Collingwood St bridge
  • The sand and mudflats of Delaware Inlet