A pet lover’s guide to living in the City of Melbourne

25 September 2023

There’s no doubt about it, Melburnians love pets. Dog and cat registrations are booming as people seek out loyal companions and exercise buddies, so we’ve put together some top tips for responsible pet owners.

Read on to find out Melbourne’s top dog breeds, how you can help people and pets live in harmony, pet ownership alternatives for short-term residents, the city’s best pet-friendly staycations and more.

Follow these links to jump to particular sections:

Fast facts about pets in the City of Melbourne

  • There are nearly 5400 registered dogs in the City of Melbourne. That’s an increase of around 50 per cent since 2018.
  • Melbourne’s most popular dog breeds are cavoodles, labradors and jack russell terrier crosses.
  • We added more than three hectares of off-leash parkland to the existing 16 hectares last year.
  • We currently have approximately 4800 cats registered.
Cash the miniature dachshund puppy enjoying a day out in North Melbourne

Before you buy a pet

Every year many abandoned cats and dogs are euthanised because potential owners didn’t think it through before buying a pet. It’s important to fully understand the responsibility of pet ownership, and to choose your pet wisely.

What’s the best type of pet for me?

Get your pet from a shelter and carefully consider the right breed for your lifestyle. Some dogs require lots of exercise – up to two hours a day for large dogs – and would be very stressed living in an apartment.

Here are some important things to think about if you are considering pet ownership:

  • Cats and dogs can live up to 18 years.
  • Do you have time to care for a pet?
  • Do you work long hours?
  • Will you be able to walk a dog?
  • Is the type of pet you’re considering suitable for the place you live in?
  • Will you be able to keep the animal for its entire life?
  • Do you have any future life plans that will leave the pet homeless?
Beloved Murphy enjoys plenty of enrichment and company from her family

Pet fostering and volunteering opportunities for short-term residents

The City of Melbourne is home to many short-term residents. Whether you’re a visitor, here for work or to study, you might be interested in caring for a pet. However, owning a pet is a big responsibility and requires a long-term commitment of more than 10 years. A great alternative is to foster a pet or volunteer at an animal shelter.

How to be a responsible pet owner in the City of Melbourne

There are many benefits to owning a pet, including companionship and positive health impacts, but a cat or a dog is not something to take on lightly. Here are some of your key obligations and responsibilities as a pet owner.

Do I need to register and microchip my dog or cat?

Registration and microchipping is required by law for dogs and cats, even if your pet does not leave your premises. This helps us reunite you with your pet if they get lost.

Register your cat or dog, or renew their registration, before 10 April every year.

Do I need to desex my dog or cat?

We recommend that cats and dogs be desexed. Desexing makes it cheaper to register your cat or dog, as well as reducing anti-social behaviours and over-population, which leads to many healthy animals being euthanised.

Learn more about Desexing your cat or dog.

Stevie surveying her domain from a spot of sunshine

How can I stop my dog from barking?

Make sure your pet is happy, fed, properly trained and has appropriate enrichment.

Excessive barking can be annoying for neighbours and nearby residents. Dogs often bark because they are bored, lonely or frustrated due to lack of exercise and mental stimulation.

If your dog is barking, there are a number of actions that can help:

  • Take your dog for more regular walks.
  • Enrol your dog in obedience training, which creates an interesting environment to keep your dog stimulated.
  • Block the view of movement outside the property if your dog is barking at people walking past.
  • Ensure your dog is in good health.
  • Seek professional advice.

Your neighbours can complain if your dog is often noisy or disturbs the peace unreasonably. Under nuisance laws, we can investigate complaints about noise from domestic animals in the community. If your dog constantly barks you may be fined or even taken to court.

If you have a noisy dog in your neighbourhood, visit What to do if your neighbour’s dog is barking.

Fur friends enjoying a fenced exercise area

Do I have to keep my cat inside?

We encourage owners to keep their cats confined to their homes and inside at night as it’s the best way to keep your cat safe and protect local wildlife.

Neighbours can also object to your cat trepassing on their property. Each year we collect approximately 200 roaming cats and sadly attend to a number of cats that are killed on roadways.

There are some simple options available to help keep your cat confined to your property:

  • Buy or build a free-standing cat enclosure, or build a cat enclosure attached to an existing structure.
  • Get cat-proof fencing or netting.

If you’re a resident and there’s a cat causing a nuisance in your area, you can report it online for us to investigate.

Rescue-cat Zorro is registered, de-sexed and microchipped, and enjoys daily walks on his lead

Enjoying parks and public places with your pet

When you’re walking your dog, be considerate of other people, use a leash unless you are in a designated off-leash area, and pick up after your pet. Read on to learn more about leashing, dog parks and fun things to do with your pet.

“Responsible pet ownership isn’t just about your pet’s welfare, it’s also about being considerate to other people. Everyone has the right to enjoy our parks and wider community without undue disruption, or especially aggression, from a pet.

“We don’t like to hand out fines, but we take responsible dog ownership and leashing requirements seriously for a reason.”

Animal Management Coordinator
Our animal management team performs daily park patrols

Does my dog need to be on a leash?

The City of Melbourne requires dogs to be leashed in all public areas of the municipality, unless you are in a designated off-leash area in a park.

When a dog is being exercised off-leash, it must be under effective voice or hand control, so you are able to leash the dog promptly if necessary. Dogs must be within constant sight and not allowed to worry or threaten people or animals.

If your dog does not return to you when you call it or you have difficulty controlling your dog’s behaviour around other dogs, you should never let your dog off its leash. Consider taking your dog to training so it can enjoy being off-leash.

Learn more about leashing requirements.

“You should keep your dog on a leash where required, and at all times if they will not return to you when called. Bear in mind that dogs may react unexpectedly in different situations.”

Animal Management Coordinator

Where can I exercise my dog off-leash?

There are many designated off-leash areas to exercise dogs in the City of Melbourne municipality. Some parks have designated off-leash areas for dogs at all times, while other places can be used as off-leash areas at specific times.

  • Canning and Neill Street Reserve – Carlton
  • Clayton Reserve – North Melbourne
  • Eades Park – West Melbourne
  • Fawkner Park – South Yarra
  • Gosch’s Paddock – Melbourne
  • JJ Holland Park – Kensington
  • Kings Way and Moray Street Reserve – Southbank
  • Manningham Reserve – Parkville
  • North Melbourne Recreation Reserve – North Melbourne
  • Point Park (timed off-leash) – Docklands
  • Princes Park – Carlton North
  • Riverside Park (timed off-leash) – Kensington
  • Ron Barassi Senior Park – Docklands
  • Royal Park – Parkville
  • Stawell Park – West Melbourne
  • Wellington Park (timed off-leash) – East Melbourne
  • Yarra Park – East Melbourne

Browse more details about off-leash dog parks in your neighbourhood.

Cleaning up after your dog

You are required to clean up and dispose of your dog’s droppings in all public areas. It is your responsibility to ensure you always carry a poo bag or other item to collect and remove your dog’s waste.

Poo bags and bins are installed in some parks and gardens in both on-leash and off-leash areas to assist in the removal of dog waste.

Heat health for pets

Extreme heat can have severe effects on vulnerable people and pets. Make sure your animals have plenty of water and a cool place to rest. Find more tips at Heatwaves.

Lil Dude loves to squeeze into boxes of all sizes

Dog friendly hotels and cafes in the City of Melbourne

Did you know that one in three Aussies chooses to stay home with their pets instead of going on holiday? Now hotels across Melbourne are loosening ruff no-pet policies and welcoming dogs.

There’s never been a better time to staycation in the city with your four-legged best friend. Head to What’s On Melbourne to explore The best dog-friendly staycations in Melbourne.

To discover more pet-friendly cafes, pet retailers, and places to admire cute pooches if you don’t have one of your own, our What’s On team has also put together this Dog spotter’s guide to Melbourne.

Discover pup-friendly hotels, cafes and experiences on What’s On Melbourne

Meet our animal management team

From a snake on Spencer Street to a peacock on the run in Kensington, our animal management team has seen it all. The dedicated team is on-hand to help pets and people live in harmony in the City of Melbourne.

A day in the life of an animal management officer includes park patrols, responding to reports of barking dogs, animal welfare issues and dog attacks, and assessing compliance among pet shops, animal shelters and pet boarding establishments.

“I’ve rescued a staffy that was running around a construction site, rehomed a rabbit and waded in a fountain at the Carlton Gardens to rescue a distressed duckling.

“Whatever the job, we give it a go. But the most rewarding part of my week is reuniting owners with their lost pets. Registration and microchipping are so important.

“As our city evolves, we will continue to work hard to ensure the community has good shared access to parks and public space, striking a good balance between people and pets.”

Animal Management Officer
Animal management officer Nick with local dog Mishka

Report an animal issue

You can report animal issues – including stray, injured or abandoned animals, dogs off-leash in on-leash areas, barking dogs, roaming cats and issues with dog waste in public spaces – to the City of Melbourne. If there is any danger to the public or public space, please call us immediately on 9658 9658. In emergencies, call 000.

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25 September 2023
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