The Summary Offences (Dog Theft) Amendment Bill was passed by the South Australian Parliament on 1 December 2022 to create a specific criminal offence for dog theft – the first of its kind in South Australia.
Article by Harley Vincent, Solicitor at Southern Community Justice Centre
The Summary Offences (Dog Theft) Amendment Bill was passed by the South Australian Parliament on 1 December 2022 to create a specific criminal offence for dog theft – the first of its kind in South Australia. The new offence, which is expected to come into operation later in 2023, states that:
“A person who steals a dog, or has unlawfully in their possession a stolen dog knowing that the dog has been stolen, is guilty of an offence.”
Section 3 Summary Offences (Dog Theft) Amendment Bill 2022 (SA)
The offence carries a significant maximum penalty of a $50,000 fine or imprisonment for 2 years, which is expected to act as a strong deterrent against potential offenders.
The new law was partly prompted by concerns that offenders are taking advantage of the increase in the value of dogs during the Covid pandemic and making financial gains from stealing and selling dogs (in particular, purebreds and designer dogs).
The introduction of the law was also founded upon the recognition that
“dogs are not simply property but are deeply loved members of the family, which cannot easily be replaced.” 
Second Reading Speech – Deputy Premier Susan Close
The introduced financial penalty now gives the courts the avenue to penalise offenders for the harm caused to families when their beloved canines are stolen.
Currently, dog theft can be prosecuted under the general theft offence under the Criminal Law Consolidation Act (SA). However, this offence only allows for a term of imprisonment to be imposed on convicted offenders, and there is currently no applicable financial penalty.
Although this new law may provide dog owners with some extra peace of mind, we remind you to always remain vigilant to protect your furry friends.
Neighbourhood Watch recommends several precautions to ensure the safety of your pets, including:
Keeping them in a secure yard (ideally not left unattended)
Ensuring they are microchipped and registered with your local council
Always keeping an eye on your pet in public places
Thoroughly researching dog walkers, sitters, groomers, and trainers
You can read more about tips to keep your pets safe, and what to do if they are missing or stolen, by clicking the following link:
About the Author
About Southern Community Justice Centre
The Southern Community Justice Centre is a community legal centre that offers free, confidential legal advice. The Centre team consists of 5 practicing solicitors, a family advocate, mental health worker and highly experienced support staff. Contact the Southern Community Justice Centre for free legal help on 1300 850 350.
Please note: This article has been produced for information purposes only. It does not constitute, nor should it be relied upon as, legal or financial advice. It is also only accurate as at date of publication, being: 13 December 2022 We cannot and do not guarantee its ongoing accuracy, as changes in the law may occur. It is strongly encouraged readers obtain independent legal and financial advice. For referral information, contact Community Legal Centres SA on 08 8121 4473. For referrals to a private (fee-for-service) lawyer, to have some of the abovementioned documents drafted, call the Law Society SA on 08 8229 0200.