A cat living wildly on conservsation land in the Wellington area
Image: Rod Morris | DOC


You are not allowed to take a pet into conservation land without DOC permission. This includes national parks, wildlife areas and reserves.

No pets allowed on conservation land

No pets or domestic animals are allowed on conservation land including in national parks or wildlife reserves - even if your pet is on a lead, in a harness, carrier or otherwise contained.

This rule protects our native wildlife and the ecosystems they depend on.

Some exceptions

There are some exceptions to this rule for dogs, horses and livestock:

  • Dogs can visit open dog areas on conservation land or controlled access areas with a permit. Find dog access areas.
  • Certified disability assist dogs are allowed on any conservation land while assisting – they do not need a permit unless the area requires a person to have one.
  • Horses can visit selected DOC tracks with their riders. Where to go horse-riding.
  • Livestock may be able to graze on selected spaces if a concession is granted by DOC. How to apply for a grazing permit.

For any other pet or domestic animal, you must request and be granted written permission by DOC. This includes visits to open access dog areas for any animal other than a dog.

Contact the local DOC office to any area or location you plan to visit for more advice.

Pets at camps, huts or in vehicles

There are specific conditions for pets if you are camping, visiting huts or travelling in vehicles on conservation land.

Camping or visiting huts 

You must not camp or visit a hut, lodge or cottage on conservation land with a pet unless DOC has provided written approval. It is an offence even if your pet stays within your camp or vehicle. This includes at national parks, wildlife areas and reserves.

There are some exceptions for dogs:

  • Some DOC campsites allow dogs if they abide by access rules – this may include being kept on a lead or within your camp.
  • Dogs can go to huts located in areas that allow dog access but must not enter the hut. Owners should instead shelter and secure them outside.
  • You can camp with dogs on conservation land that allows freedom camping and dog access. However, dogs must never camp with you in national parks and you may need to follow local rules and bylaws.

Check rules for DOC camps or huts on their webpages, see local signage or contact the closest DOC office to where you plan to freedom camp for advice.

Pets in vehicles or carparks

Unless DOC grants an exception, it is an offence to have a pet in your vehicle on conservation land. This includes national parks, wildlife areas and reserves.

This is regardless of whether your pet stays in the vehicle, or how long they are there. For example, crossing conservation land or briefly using a carpark on it is still an offence.

Many DOC carparks are not on conservation land. But some are within national parks and are strict ‘No Pet’ areas.

Check the DOC website pages for advice on specific locations, or call the local DOC office before you travel.

Why no pets are allowed on conservation land

By keeping pet animals like cats, rabbits, ferrets, and others out of protected spaces, we can make sure our endangered species thrive and our pets are safe. This is because:

  • The sight, sounds and smells of pets and other domestic animals can distress wild animals – it may even cause them to leave their homes and their young unprotected.
  • Dogs, cats, ferrets and other meat-eating pets may hunt, maim and kill threatened wildlife – even well-fed animals can cause harm.
  • Pets can be at risk of being hurt by traps or finding predator control poisons, some of which have no remedy once consumed.
  • Domestic pets can spread diseases our wildlife has not been exposed to and cannot be protected from. These can devastate our taonga and the ecosystems they depend on.
  • They also increase the risk of spreading kauri disease where it is present.

If you ignore the rules

If you bring your pet onto conservation land without having been granted access, you may receive an infringement fine or be prosecuted.

Your pet may also be seized and impounded or destroyed.

This includes taking:

  • any animal into a national park, wildlife area or reserve without written permission,
  • any animal other than a dog into open or a controlled dog access area without written permission, or
  • dogs into no dog access area or into a controlled dog access area without a permit.

Lost or released pets and animals may be destroyed

Releasing pets or other animals on to conservation land is an offence under the Conservation Act and the National Parks Act.

A lost or released animal found living wildly on conservation land may be destroyed.

Wild animals are not pets 

No-one may take any protected animal from their habitat without a permit.

Most of our wildlife are protected under the Wildlife Act. It protects most mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles - such as geckos and skinks - some marine animals and some insects.

Taking a protected animal for a pet is an offence that can result in prosecution. It also causes animals unnecessary suffering as they need their natural habitat to thrive.

About DOC's enforcement tools

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