Pet tax: ACT government canvasses annual animal registration

Pet owners in Canberra could be forced to pay a fee to register their animals each year, under plans being canvassed by the ACT government.

The territory government has conducted phone polling in recent weeks where Canberrans were asked what they'd be willing to pay to register their pets per year.

Pet owners in Canberra could face a yearly registration fee for their cats and dogs

Pet owners in Canberra could face a yearly registration fee for their cats and dogs

A spokeswoman for City Services Minister Chris Steel said the consultation was part of the Draft Cat Plan, which raised the prospect of introducing cat registration to "improve animal welfare outcomes".

She said that dogs were already legally required to be registered and revenue from current registration fees was used to support animal management and welfare initiatives.

The ACT and Tasmania are the only two jurisdictions that don't require cat registration.

"Registration may help provide better information about the number of pets that live in the ACT, including where they are housed and who owns them," she said.

"It enables lost pets to be reunited with their owner more easily and more effective enforcement of laws like cat containment."

However a lifetime registration for a dog currently costs $56.15. Those caught keeping an unregistered dog can be fined $350.

Those polled were asked what they felt a fair annual registration fee was.

The ACT government spokeswoman said in other Australian jurisdictions, annual registrations range from around $30 - $60 per year for desexed and microchipped cats and dogs.

"An option that will be considered is that the registration process does not include a fee," she said.

The territory government has been considering introducing annual pet registration for at least 18 months.

Former City Services Minister Meegan Fitzharris said in late 2017 the current system of lifetime registration was inadequate as it did not provide a "good picture" of how many dogs there were in Canberra nor "further responsible pet ownership".

"NSW is one of the few jurisdictions that has a lifetime registration and therefore because we're an island within NSW we have a similar scheme that has been in place since 2008. I'm interested in whether a different scheme could work better for Canberra," she said at the time.

The government has also copped heat from its parliamentary partners, the Greens, over its failure to enforce existing cat containment laws.

Cat containment is in force in 17 Canberra suburbs, most recently Whitlam, with owners who let their cats roam in these areas facing fines of up to $1500.

But despite the government last year expanding its cat holding facilities to detain roving moggies, and a proposal to extend containment to existing suburbs, Greens crossbencher Caroline Le Couteur said no one had ever been fined under the scheme.

"The Greens believe that mandatory cat registration would also assist with containment, as it would help return lost pets to their owners and the registration fees would help subsidise staff and facilities," she said last year.

The consultation comes amid a broader crackdown on irresponsible animal owners.

Mr Steel recently announced a six-month pilot where a new compliance team would target trouble spots around Canberra, handing out fines for off-leash dogs and other infractions.