I used to know a kid who swore blind his pet dog was a dingo. As it could fit comfortably inside a shoe box, I'm pretty sure he was bullshitting. Nevertheless, I've often wondered whether he could have owned one legally. Do you need some kind of special permit to keep a dingo as a pet? Or are wild "dogs" fair game? Let's find out.
The dingo (Canis dingo) is a species of wild canine that has been roaming the Australian wilderness for at least 3,500 years. (Some scientists estimate an arrival date of 10,000 BC.) The dingo was domesticated by indigenous Australians long before the arrival of white settlers - so it seems reasonable to assume they might make suitable pets.
In fact, even wild dingoes will act reasonably tame after coming into frequent contact with humans. (Attacks are extremely rare, and usually only occur when food becomes scarce.) When reared by humans from birth, a dingo will act similarly to a domesticated dog; just without the incessant barking.
With that said, they have been known to exhibit undesirable behaviour, including a tendency to escape confinement, cause destruction and act aggressively towards other pets. They also cannot be trained to the same degree as most dog breeds.
So is owning a dingo legal? As you'd expect, it largely depends on where you live and the manner in which the dingo was acquired.
In most states and territories, it is illegal to remove wildlife from its natural habitat and attempt to keep it as a pet. (In other words, you can't capture and tame a wild dingo yourself - even if it's a pup.) Furthermore, most states and territories require special permits for domesticated dingoes. Owners may also need to meet certain requirements and conditions prior to approval.
With the exception of permitted zoos and wildlife parks, dingo ownership is currently illegal in South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland. In the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Victoria and the ACT, dingo owners are required to have a permit. New South Wales is the only region where dingoes can be kept as pets without a license.
Interestingly, dingoes have been completely deregulated in NSW, which means they enjoy the same status as other dogs. Provided you didn't pluck it from the wild, your pet dingo is perfectly legal.
There are, of course, other factors that need to be considered. According to the NSW government, you should only consider owning a dingo if you can provide the following:
- An area of approximately 220m or more to allow the dingoes to exercise.
- A fence design that utilises chain mesh manufactured from at least 3.15mm wire or weldmesh manufactured from at least 4mm wire with a maximum mesh spacing of 50mm. This fence should extend into the ground at least 30cm.
- A 2m high fence with an additional 0.5m inhang to stop the dingoes climbing out of the enclosure.
- A 1m mesh footing that extends from the base of the fence into the enclosure (that is pinned down) to stop the dingoes digging out of the enclosure.
- Complexity within the enclosure, including large logs and rocks for the dingoes to climb on.
- A weatherproof sleeping area.
Like other dog breeds, pet dingoes must be microchipped and registered by their owner within 12 weeks and six months of age, respectively.