Cape Town plans new rules for pet owners – including how to handle noisy dogs

The City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee (Mayco) has approved an updated animal keeping policy, including updated pet ownership regulations.

First introduced in 2005, the policy relates to:

  • The principles of animal welfare;
  • Responsibilities of pet owners and the public at large;
  • Complaints relating to animals;
  • Partnerships between the city and pet owners;
  • Animal keepers; and
  • The animal welfare sector, among others.

“The updated animal keeping by-law is now far more comprehensive and provides a very clear guide on the ‘duty to care’ principle for all animals within the city’s jurisdiction. The by-law sets out the responsibilities of animal owners, caregivers, breeders of animals, and the public at large,” the Mayco said.

While the updated policy will still need to proceed to the city council for final approval, a draft copy published for public comment in April 2021 outlines some of the planned changes.

Animal care

The city proposes a basic duty of care which animal owners will need to follow. This includes:

  • All animals must have sufficient accommodation, food, water and shelter as per the animal keeping by-law and other relevant legislation as determined by the authorised official who may consult with animal welfare inspectors.
  • Any form of animal cruelty, which includes but is not limited, animal-fighting, neglect, frightening an animal, torture or violence towards an animal and neglect of animals, must be prohibited.
  • An important aspect of developing an environment conducive to animal care is providing public spaces where animals can be exercised, such as free run public spaces for dogs and public spaces where horses are permitted to be ridden. These public spaces should be clearly signposted and must form part of the urban landscape.
  • The locations of these public spaces should be communicated regularly via the city’s communication channels to the public.
  • Dogs are otherwise required to be on leashes or under the control of owners, 18 years and above, in public places to avoid causing nuisance or danger to other residents.


The city said that pet registration is important as it enables it to monitor animal populations, gather important data to improve animal-related interventions, and ensure that inspections can be carried out to ensure the responsible keeping of animals.

It also enables the city to reunite owners and lost pets or assist when pets have been stolen.

For this reason, the owners of certain pets are required by the city’s by-law to register their pets. This will be qualified in the city’s bylaw relating to the keeping of animals and subsequent administrative instruments such as standard operating procedures.

The permitting of small and large animals, including dogs, cats and horses, is compulsory, and the city will determine the format and process of registration.

Registration may be done online via the city’s website or by submitting a registration form to a city office or as a part of a registration drive run by the city from time to time.

“Registration is required to ensure that pets can be reunited with their owners in the case of separation,” the city said.

“In the case of a stray animal, the first step in the process is for the animal to be reunited with their owner; this will be done by accessing the registration data by the welfare organisation.

“If the pet is not registered and the owner cannot be found, the pet will be put up for adoption.”

Noise and nuisance

While the city does have a responsibility to attend to matters of noise and nuisance, the draft document states that ‘neighbourly living’ can first be applied in cases that are not severe.

In this context, neighbourly living means attempting to resolve issues between residents amicably and through conversation or some form of mediation. It seeks to promote harmonious living environments.

Approaching noise and nuisance complaints from a neighbourly living perspective entails the following:

  •  Noise from barking dogs is a common complaint and may be approached from the perspective of neighbourly living.
  •  In a noise or nuisance complaint regarding an animal, the affected neighbour may approach their pet owner neighbour to resolve the matter as an alternative to enforcement related resolution.
  • If this does not work, the complainant may also approach the street committee, neighbourhood watch or a body corporate.
  • Alternative resolution of the complaint through neighbourly living (communication and or mediation) is preferred. However, the complainant is not precluded from approaching the City for direct enforcement intervention.
  • In cases where neighbourly living attempts have failed and a complaint has been lodged with the City, an authorised official may investigate the nuisance situation and severity of the nuisance caused.

In cases where neglect or cruelty is suspected, the city said that an authorised official may issue a written compliance notice, fine, Section 54 summons or impound the animal.

It added that the following evaluation would assess the level of care exercised by the owner for the animal:

  • Whether an accommodation is appropriate for the animal;
  • If there is enough room for the animal to move around comfortably;
  • The quality of water and food offered to the animal is not rancid;
  • That the owner provides required daily care for the animal.

If it is found that the owner is not providing adequately for the animal, the owner may be prosecuted, and the animal may be removed for its own protection.

Once care aspects have been assessed, and the authorised official is satisfied that the animal is being cared for, this nuisance issue is then dealt with.

Read: The state of our city: ‘theft, vandalism and anything else that can be broken, used or sold’

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Cape Town plans new rules for pet owners – including how to handle noisy dogs