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How well do you know dog laws?

24th July 2017


We love our dogs in the UK and so many of us take great joy from their companionship, but when taking on the responsibility of owning one of these fantastic animals, it is important for us all to be aware of the law as it pertains to dogs in this country. There are numerous laws that exist to help protect dogs, their owners, and the general public, and while those looking for a new in-house legal job might very well be aware of these, spreading as much information and knowledge about this subject as possible benefits all involved. So, with that in mind, we have put together a rundown of dog laws in the UK, helping you to see just how much you know.

Dogs must wear collars

Cooper & Co. Solicitors – dog law specialists – spoke to us about some of the most important dog laws to know, including that of wearing collars.

“When a dog is on a highway or in a place of 'public resort', under the Control of Dogs Order 1992 it is a requirement that the dog must wear a collar and that the collar must have proscribed information contained on the collar itself or on a plate or badge attached to it (usually in the form of a dog tag). This must include the owner's name and their address.

“Compliance amongst dog owners is very poor although the requirement is rarely enforced. By not complying, dog owners are reducing the chances of a lost dog being returned home quickly. Even though microchipping for dogs is now compulsory it hasn't overtaken the requirement for a collar and tag.”

Dogs excluded from this law include those on duty with the armed forces, police dogs, and guide dogs for the blind.

You must clean up after your dog immediately

dog foul

It is an offence to not clean up after your dog when it fouls in public. Before 2003 in Scotland, it was illegal for your dog to foul in particular public places no matter if the mess was removed or not, but the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act of 2005 requires that you clean up immediately or face a £1000 fine.

Dangerous dogs must be registered and insured

Some of us love dogs like Pit Bulls, but as of 1991, all members of this breed, and that of the Japanese Tosa, Dog Argentino, and Filo Braziliero, are not only banned, but any that still exist are required to be registered (by November 1991), neutered, microchipped, tattooed, and insured as well. It is an offence to breed, sell, or give away one of these dogs.

Dog breeding

If you are in the breeding business, there are a host of laws and requirements you should be aware of. Those who breed more than fiver litters per year are required by law to be licenced under the Breeding and Sale of Dogs Act 1999. If you breed fewer than five litters, you must still be licenced if doing so for business purposes.

This particular law also states that breeders are not allowed to mate a bitch younger than 12 months old, accurate records must be kept, and that puppies cannot be sold until they are eight weeks old.

Animal Welfare

In 2007, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 was introduced and increased penalties for acts of cruelty, mutilation, neglect, tail docking, and animal fighting. The act also introduced important measures of animal welfare, stating that owners have a duty of care to provide their pets a suitable diet, environment, protection from pain, injury and disease, and consideration of the animal’s needs to be housed with or without other animals.

Jamie Potter from the law firm Bindmans LLP has commented on the importance of knowing the law and how it protects the welfare of your dog, as well as what is expected of you in certain situations:

“Dog owners (or prospective dog owners) should also be aware that breeders, pet shops and kennels must be licensed by the local council and are subject to specific statutory requirements, as well as the overarching requirements set out in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. If your newly purchased dog (or dog returning from a kennel) becomes ill, it is important you inform not only the breeder, pet shop or kennel, but also your local council or relevant trading standards authority, so appropriate action can be taken to ensure other dogs are not affected.”

The law regarding pet theft

While certain laws exist to protect the public from your dog, there are also valuable laws in case your dog is stolen. The Theft Act of 1968 means that owners have the same legal rights and recourse as would exist if anything else was stolen from you. Even if the pet is lost, the pet is still considered under law to be the property of the original owner, and therefore anyone who finds it must make a reasonable effort to locate the original owner before re-homing can take place. 

Damage or injury caused by your dog

Cooper and Co. also spoke to us about the Dangerous Dogs Act, and the ramifications if your dog is out of control.

“Most people are aware of the infamous Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the fact that it banned certain types of dog - including the dog of the type known as the Pit Bull Terrier. However, what is less widely known is that the Act also makes it a criminal offence for ANY kind of dog to be 'dangerously out of control'.

“The offence is committed by both the owner and, if different, the person for the time being in charge of the dog. Since 2014, it includes incidents anywhere in England or Wales (subject to a 'householder case' defence). It merely has to be proven on the criminal standard there were grounds for reasonable fear of injury to a person (or an assistance dog).

“If the dog in fact injures then it is regarded as an aggravated offence and penalties can be onerous, including a prison sentence of up to 5 years (or up to 14 years if the victim dies) and there would be a presumption that the dog shall be destroyed.”

As well as the above, if your dog damages crops, or digs up a person’s garden for example, you can be prosecuted under civil and criminal laws. Your dog is your responsibility so take every effort to ensure it’s under control.

Keeping your dog on the lead

It’s great whenever we can let our dogs off their leads for a nice runabout, but there are many public places and roads where your dog must be kept on the lead at all times. No matter how confident you are that your dog is well behaved, the laws must be obeyed. You can also commit an offence by not keeping your dog on a lead when directed to by an authorised officer. These laws exist for the safety of all parties, including your dog.

Your dog can’t worry livestock

In the law, special emphasis is put on the protection of livestock from dogs that are chasing or worrying them. When around sheep, poultry, or any other farm animal, you must control your dog every step of the way. This is an incredibly important law to remember because the farmer owning the worried animal has the right to take action to stop what is happening which includes shooting your dog.