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Privacy for Dogs!

Even your pooch values their privacy, but do they have a right to it? Kathryn Dalziel, NZ’s top privacy lawyer explains.

Well that has got your attention: Privacy for Dogs!

While you have to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the physical, health, and behavioural needs of your dog are met in accordance with good practice and scientific knowledge (Animal Welfare Act), and you have to ensure your dog receives proper care and attention and is supplied with proper and sufficient food, water and shelter, and receives adequate exercise (Dog Control Act) , you do not have to worry about the Privacy Commissioner metaphorically knocking on your door when you put photos of your beloved pet all over Facebook or Instagram.

The rights under the Privacy Act only attach to an individual who is a natural person (that is a human being – not a company, trust, partnership, or incorporated society).

But there are some privacy issues you may be interested in as a dog owner:

  1. Under the Dog Control Act, you must have your dog registered with a local authority which includes your full name, date of birth and address plus the address where the dog is ordinarily kept.
  2. The local authority cannot disclose your personal information details unless this is required by animal welfare or environment enforcement officers (including the police) or a vet.
  3. If the local authority is investigating excessive barking, they cannot use listening devices on your property without your consent.
  4. If the local authority starts watching via cctv cameras every public space in case a dog owner allows a dog to foul the environment without the owner cleaning up afterwards, that is likely to be considered excessive and likely to breach people’s reasonable expectation of privacy, even in public.
  5. Animal Management Officers can check your dog is registered. They cannot come into your house without a warrant.
  6. We are all familiar with sniffer dogs being used by customs.  They can also be used by schools to search property but they cannot search students.
  7. Your dog club, vet, or any agency involved with you and your dog is required to comply with the Privacy Act.  That means:
    • They should only collect information about you that is necessary for their purposes and lawful
    • They should only collect information about you from you
    • They should be transparent about the way they are going to collect and use your information
    • They should collect information from you fairly
    • They should keep your information secure
    • They should allow you to access and correct your information
    • They should check for accuracy before using your information
    • They should only hold onto your information for as long as necessary
    • They should only use your information for the purposes for which it was collected.
    • They should not disclose your information to 3rd parties except in limited circumstances like they are required to by law or one of their purposes for collecting is to disclose to a particular 3rd party
    • They should not assign you a customer number that is the same as another of your personal identification numbers (eg your library card number or IRD number)

So there you have it. In summary there is no privacy for dogs but there are lots of privacy rights for a dog’s owner.  Continue to put your photos of your dogs up on Facebook and be assured the Privacy Commissioner will not come and collar you!

Kathryn@kathryndalzielbarrister.co.nz