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By-Laws for Keeping Pets in Homes and Complexes

Cape Town's amended by-laws for keeping pets

Extended lockdowns meant that staff couldn’t get to the office, resulting in many employers allowing their staff the choice to work remotely. This opened up the opportunity for people to opt for a better quality of life and move to places not dictated by their jobs.


Known as semigration, the trend towards moving from metropolitan areas to smaller and larger towns or Cape. Semigrants are also attracted to the fact that municipalities are typically better run in the Western Cape than in other parts of the country. This is evidenced by the numbers, with people moving to the Western Cape, up to 35% in 2021 from 31% in 2020.

Moving home is always stressful and apart from the obvious like deciding on the town or city, type of residence, kids schooling, etc an often overlooked factor if you also have furry family members are the city or town by-laws!

Animal Keeping Policy

Did you know that Cape Town has recently introduced new city by-laws. The changes come as the City says it’s spending a large amount of money on animal welfare and safety programmes while the number of animal welfare complaints and cases continues to rise in the Western Cape.

The City of Cape Town initially asked for public comment on its Animal Keeping Policy, which includes updated regulations around pet ownership from April 2021 and has now enacted the new by-law.

Under new legislation, the City of Cape Town is aiming to clampdown on badly-behaved pets - and a rise in strays across the metro. For instance, the City is keen to clampdown on dangerous animals – especially the ones that are usually domesticated. The draft laws aim to enforce legislation that prevents some pets from leaving their home, based on previous behaviour. It’s like house arrest meets lockdown – but in the animal kingdom.

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.

Some of the key changes proposals included in the draft document are outlined in more detail below but now become law. The amended by-law replaces the Animal By-Law of 2010, which focused on guiding pet ownership, the welfare of working equines and more. The new legislation provides a clear guide to animal owners or caregivers, breeders of animals and the public at large as to how to apply the duty to care principle to all animals within its jurisdiction.

The amended by-law now comes with a mandatory sterilisation clause for animals. According to the city’s Safety and Security Portfolio Committee, Mzwakhe Nqavashe, “The city and animal welfare organisations are increasingly spending huge amounts of budgets on health and safety programmes dedicated to animals.”

Further he noted, “We have also seen an increase in the number of complaints around animal welfare, which is placing immense pressure on the SPCA and other organisations in the animal welfare sector, but also the city’s Law Enforcement Department.”

Cape Town's New By-Law

The main parts of the new by-law are:

  • Animal care

The city has outlined 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 that is conducive to animal care is the provision of 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 sign posted and must form part of the urban landscape.
  • The locations of these public spaces should be communicated on a regular basis via the city’s communication channels to the public.
  • Dogs are otherwise required to be on leashes or under the control of owners, who are 18 years and above, in public places to avoid causing nuisance or danger to other residents.
  • Registration

The city said that pet registration is important as it enables it to monitor animal populations and gather important data to improve animal-related interventions, and make sure 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 which is 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 his/her owner, this will be done by accessing the registration data by the welfare organization.

“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 the case of 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 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 level of care exercised by the owner for the animal will be assessed by the following evaluation:

  • 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 issue of nuisance is then dealt with.

  • Dangerous animals

Owners of animals or pets that have been declared dangerous by authorised officials or have a history of injuring or attacking other people and animals, should take all reasonable precautions and comply with any conditions set out in compliance notices

If a cat is known to scratch, bite, injure or attack a person, the cat should not be allowed to roam free outside the premises where they are being kept, or roam onto other properties.

Dogs that have been:

  • Declared dangerous;
  • Have a history of biting or attacking people or other animals;
  • Have previously been the subject of complaints relating to biting or attacking;
  • Where previous compliance notices or fines were issued.

Should also not be allowed to roam freely in public or onto other private premises, even if they are humanely muzzled.

Views from Industry Insiders

Cape of Good Hope SPCA spokesperson Belinda Abraham said the policy was a step in the right direction and they’re delighted by the new by law.

“We appreciate the acknowledgement of the immense work done by the SPCA, and we encourage the public to get familiar with the new by-law, as this document will provide the context for animal-keeping by-laws relating to many issues like uncontrolled breeding, that significantly compromise the welfare of animals in general and place heavy burdens on the animal welfare sector.”

According to the SPCA, sterilisation translated directly into the prevention of cruelty to animals and remained one of the only proactive tools they had at their disposal to fight animal cruelty.

Animal Welfare Society of South Africa spokesperson Allan Perrins said the policy represented a quantum leap in the right direction for the welfare and well-being of pets and people in the Cape metro. The new by-law presented a "triumph" for all animal lovers and animal welfare professionals.

"In our experience, that spans over 90 years, there are few animal welfare interventions that have a greater beneficial impact than mass pet sterilisation programmes, as we continue the battle against the scourge of animal overpopulation and cruelty," said Perrins. 

Perrins said he hoped the AWS would soon see an influx of pet owners bringing their pets for sterilisation.

"Of course, we do know that there are many pet owners who won't be happy about this new law as many of them might see it as a sense of control, but all we are trying to do is prevent the spread of stray and unwanted pets roaming the streets," he added.

Other Cities

So enough of Cape Town. What if you are moving to another town in South Africa. What are their by-laws? For ease see here for by-laws for pets for all popular areas in South Africa.

As you consider making a new home in some other part of the country, it’s important to know what are the by-laws in general not only for your pets. However, these are often overlooked or ignored until something goes wrong! So, factor these as part of your planning when moving.

Animal Protection Act

“According to the Animal Protection Act of 1962, anyone who does not follow the regulations set out by the Act and its bylaws may receive a penalty of up to a fine of R4 000, and could even face imprisonment for a period of 12 months. It’s important to know the legal requirements of pet ownership in your city before you bring a pet into your home,” says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

Across all regions in South Africa, animal cruelty in terms of housing any animal is defined by the Act as: “affording inadequate shelter, light or ventilation in which such animal is excessively exposed to heat, cold, weather, sun, rain, dust exhaust gases or noxious fumes”. The act also specifies that “making adequate provision for suitable food, potable water and rest” for the animal is a minimum requirement for pet ownership.

It explicitly disallows an animal to be confined by “chains, tethers or secures [...] unnecessarily or [...] in such a manner as to cause that animal unnecessary suffering” in such a way that is described as cruelty above.

Implication for Pet Owners

What does all of this mean for you as a pet owner? Well, for starters, it means that if your pet sleeps outside, you need to provide adequate shelter for it.

“There are various reasons for keeping pets outdoors. However, most kennels do not offer great protection against the elements. Building an awning and tucking the kennel into a corner underneath the roof is a great way to add an extra layer of protection against rain, wind, and sunshine. As a bonus, the addition also adds value to your home,” explains Adrian Goslett from RE/MAX.

"It is important to know the legal requirements of pet ownership in your city before you bring a pet into your home,” says Goslett.

The act also prevents you from keeping your pet tied up to a tree or any other tether for extended periods of time.

“If you have an energetic dog that you’d like to keep at bay when you have visitors over, then it is preferable to put up a fence that gives your pet enough space to run around in while you and your guests gather around the braai on the other side,” Goslett advises.

There is also a law that restricts the number of animals you are allowed to keep according to the type of property you own.

Each region will have their own bylaws on this, but most subscribe to these restrictions to dogs over six months old: a maximum of two dogs are allowed to be kept in or at a dwelling unit (a sectional title), three dogs are allowed to be kept in or at a dwelling house (a freestanding property), four dogs are allowed to be kept in or at a large dwelling house (a property on a plot exceeding 600sqm), and six dogs are allowed to be kept on an agricultural property. For cats, no more than four can be kept on any residential property, and no more than six can be kept on an agricultural property.

In the interest of public health and safety, if you want to keep a pet other than the usual suspects (cats, dogs, fish, birds, rodents), then you will need to receive a permit from the relevant city council before you are allowed to keep it in a residential area.

“The sad reality is that too many homeowners have been irresponsible pet owners, which has caused a large number of body corporates to rule against pet ownership in residential estates and complexes entirely,” says Goslett.

“To make sure this decision doesn’t become a wider spread restriction, homeowners need to make the effort to abide by the laws set out by their local municipality and not allow their bad habits to prevent other responsible pet owners from keeping pets in their homes.”

Pets and Sectional Title

Are things any different if you live in a Sectional Title complex. These units appeal to first-time home owners or people that rent. For owners that own pets in these unit, the first thing prospective buyers should do before purchasing a sectional title is to familiarise themselves with the code of conduct and rules of that particular complex. Remember, when buying home buyers accept the rules and regulations of living there.

Pet ownership in a sectional title is one of the most common disputes between owners and the Body Corporate, but the law, better known as the Sectional Title Schemes Management Act (STSMA), does offer protection. Disputes arising from staying in these complexes are mediated by the Community Schemes Ombud Service.

According to the prescribed STSMA Conduct Rules, owners or tenants require the written permission of the trustees to keep a pet. The trustees cannot unreasonably deny permission but must consider the circumstances of the request as well as the best interest of the complex. What’s more, the trustees may set conditions that the pet owner must abide by; otherwise, permission could be withdrawn. These rules aim to avoid nuisance so that all residents enjoy living in their units.

However according to Marina Costas, Director at BBM Law “The crux of the matter is that an owner who has obtained permission to keep a pet in his or her townhouse will find that this is not the end of their efforts. They must understand their reciprocal obligation."

She continues to add "Apart from the various conditions which the trustees will apply – for example, always walking dogs on leashes and having a poop scoop at the ready or ensuring that cats do not jump into neighbours’ homes and eat off their kitchen counters – the Act stipulates that pets should not cause any inconvenience to other owners.”

She concludes “It is also recommended that the rules state that pets on common property must be leashed and properly controlled at all times so as to not cause a nuisance to other residents.”

Of course, there are specific provisions for residents who require guide animals and emotional support pets. These owners have automatic permission to have an animal on the premises, but they will have to present proof of disability.

Pet-free Complexes

Owners in complexes may opt not have any pets allowed in the complex. There are complexes where the owners have unanimously agreed on a no-pets policy, and potential buyers need to make sure they know this.

Where owners feel that they don’t want any pets in the complex, the conduct rules can be changed through a special resolution. To do this, a special general meeting must be called for owners to vote. At the meeting, a quorum must be present, and 75% of those present must vote in favour of the new rule.


Beyond the law, one should be practical and take a logical approach. If you’re truly an animal lover, then you’d also consider their feelings and the impact of a confined space or small property on your pets.

As an example, I reside in a complex and encounter many of my neighbours have medium sized dog breeds that are clearly energetic and require at least 30-60 minutes of regular physical exercise, yet I don’t even see these people doing anything for themselves, let alone their pets!

Adapted from original post.

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