|NOTE EFFECTIVE FROM 1 OCTOBER: Instead of delivering a lost pet dog or cat to the Council, vets can now choose to reunite them with their owners directly. More information: Reuniting lost pets reforms. This Guideline is now out of date and will be updated to incorporate these changes.
Guideline 5 - Reunification of pets and owners
This guideline outlines the appropriate standard expected of a registered veterinary practitioner in the course of veterinary practice. It should be read in conjunction with other related guidelines.
Context to Guideline 5: Reunification of pets and owners
Under Section 84D of the Domestic Animals Act 1994, anyone who picks up a stray dog or cat must take it to a Council-authorised officer, or to a person or business that has a specific agreement with that Council to accept lost pets.
A veterinary practice can enter into an agreement (known as a Section 84Y agreement) with a Council that allows the veterinary facility to accept, retain, sell, give, destroy or charge fees for animals managed under such agreements. Without a council agreement in place, a veterinary practice cannot legally rehome or reunite an animal with its owner.
A veterinary practitioner has an obligation under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 to provide first aid and relief from unreasonable and unnecessary pain or distress (as required) if presented with a stray dog or cat that is sick or injured.
Professional conduct under this guideline is demonstrated by the following:
|A veterinary practitioner has no legal obligation to accept a dog or cat into their care when the animal is presented as a lost pet by a member of the public.
|A veterinary practitioner has no legal obligation to scan a dog or cat for a microchip and/or identify the owner through contact with an animal microchip registry when the animal is presented as a lost pet by a member of the public.
|A veterinary practitioner has a legal obligation to deliver a lost animal to a Council-authorised officer of the municipal district where it was found, except where the veterinary workplace has entered into an agreement with a Council.
Frequently asked questions (click on a question to open the answer)
The first thing a veterinary practitioner should do when a lost or stray cat or dog is physically presented to them is assess the animal's condition and decide if the animal needs pain relief or first aid or to be euthanised. Veterinary practitioners have a responsibility to provide first aid or pain relief if this is needed to relieve an animal's suffering. They also have emergency powers to euthanise an animal if they reasonably believe the animal is likely to cause death or serious injury to any person or another animal or the animal would continue to suffer if it remained alive.
If a lost cat or dog does not need pain relief or first aid or to be euthanised, then a veterinary practitioner may choose to take one of the following actions:
- Follow the process for reuniting pets under the Domestic Animals Act 1994 (the DA Act): Information for participating vets and animal shelters (page contains a Guidance document for vets with detailed instructions from Animal Welfare Victoria). The process requires prompt action within set timeframes, record-keeping and reporting (either online to Central Animal Records or using quarterly report templates). There are some circumstances where an animal must be relinquished to the local council (dangerous dog or restricted breed dog or involved in an attack; owner not identified or does not collect the dog). A veterinary practitioner may ask an animal's owner to pay a reasonable fee to cover reunification costs.
- Tell the person presenting the animal to take the animal directly to the council or a vet which reunites pets with their owners or a person or organisation with an "84Y agreement" (see point 2 above) without admitting the animal to the practice. Veterinary clinics are not obliged to reunite animals presented to them with their owners.
- Deliver the animal to the local council or to a person or organisation that has a written agreement with the local council (under section 84Y of the DA Act) to support the capture, holding, rehoming or disposal of dogs and cats. Persons or organisations with “84Y agreements” include shelters, Community Foster Care Networks (CFCN) and foster carers, and some veterinary practices.
Yes, a member of the public can take a lost animal to a veterinary practitioner. The veterinary practitioner would be obliged to provide pain relief or first aid or euthanise the animal if needed. Otherwise, the veterinary practitioner can either:
- take action to reunite a cat or dog with its owner following the process for reuniting lost pets under the Domestic Animals Act 1994 (the DA Act): Information for participating vets and animal shelters
- take the animal then deliver it to a council authorised officer or a person or organisation who can accept lost or abandoned animals
- tell the person presenting the cat or dog to take the animal directly to the local council or a vet which reunites pets with their owners or a person or organisation with an "84Y agreement" (see point 2 above). Veterinary clinics are not obliged to reunite animals presented to them with their owners and do not have to admit lost animals if they do not need pain relief, first aid or to be euthanised.
Date of publication
In effect from 1 May 2021.
This material is current only at the time of publication and may be changed from time to time. The Board reviews and updates the Guidelines on a continuous basis to reflect changes in the science and knowledge base underpinning contemporary veterinary practice. The Board will take reasonable steps to inform the veterinary profession when such updates are released but it remains the responsibility of the individual veterinary practitioner to ensure that their knowledge and application of these Guidelines to their own practice is current.
While the Board has made every effort to ensure that the material in these Guidelines is correct in law, it shall not be liable to any veterinary practitioner or any other person or entity in relation to any claim, action or proceeding whatsoever (whether in contract, negligence or other tort or in proceedings seeking any other form of legal or equitable remedy or relief) for any inadequacy, error or mistake, or for any deficiency in the whole or any part of this document (including any updates incorporated in the document from time to time). A veterinary practitioner or any other person or entity acting upon the contents of this document acknowledges and accepts that this is the basis upon which the Board has produced these Guidelines and made them available to such person or entity.