In the United Kingdom, we dog owners realise that owning a dog is a privilege and that, as responsible dog parents, we must care for our dogs and raise them in a way that keeps them safe and doesn’t cause our pets any harm whatsoever. In addition, all dog owners must adhere to legislation and specific dog laws. However unreasonable some of these laws appear, they have been set in place not only for the dog’s safety but also to protect society.
Of course, the first essential requirement of any dog owner is that their dog, no matter its breed or size, must have some training in basic obedience. This can be provided by the owner or with a specific dog training school or course.
Here I give a breakdown of some of the most important laws covering dog ownership, but please use these as a guideline only – please don’t consider them legal advice.
Your dog must have an ID tag containing crucial information items – Your name, address and postcode. It is also compulsory that your pet is microchipped, too, with your details logged onto one of the national databases. You can read more about this in our article “Chips and ID Tags”
No one likes to think that their dog is a nuisance to any member of the public, but please consider your Postman and provide a post-box, signs to alert visitors to your home that you have a dog, and make sure that your boundary fences are in good condition to keep your dog enclosed and safe.
If a neighbour makes a complaint about your dog’s barking being a nuisance to the local Council, they are duty bound to make an investigation, which will result in an official letter. If it’s proved that your dog is barking incessantly, you could be issued a Noise Abatement Notice, or worse still, prosecution, with a fine to follow.
It is an offence not to clean up after your dog if it fouls in a public place – you must clean it up immediately or face a fine of up to £1000. The Local Authority can also issue you a Dog Control Order in some locations.
Keeping a Dangerous Dog
Since 1991, some breeds of dogs, Fila Braziliero, Dogo Argentino, Japanese Tosa and Pit Bulls, which many people love, belong to a group of canines banned in the UK. It is illegal since 1991 to own, give away, abandon, sell or breed any dogs from these groups. Any similarly looking dogs may need to apply for an exemption order to the court, where they will have a behavioural assessment to show they are not dangerous. Owners must have a third-party liability insurance policy for their dog, which must be kept on a lead and muzzled when in public.
Any Dog that is a Danger
It is an offence to own a dog of any breed and size in any public place if a public member is afraid that your dog may injure them. This could mean someone you have invited into your home to repair an appliance or decorate your home, especially if your dog is quite boisterous and jumps up to greet visitors. The Dangerous Dog Act covers any private house and land and any person who lawfully enters your home. (This means that Burglars who break into your home are not covered by this Act – if they are unfortunately bitten by your dog)!
When out walking
We know that our dogs love nothing more than a gallop about the fields off the lead, but there are many public roads and places where you must always keep your dog on the lead, even if you have the best-behaved dog ever. This is especially important if you’re walking near any livestock, sheep, or even poultry – there is always the chance that your dog could chase after farm animals or worry them. You also need to be aware that if a farmer spots your dog chasing, worrying, or even in close proximity to his flocks and not on a lead, he has the legal right to shoot your dog to prevent any damage or disasters.
Road Traffic Incidents
Unfortunate, accidents sometimes happen when a dog is hit and injured by a vehicle. The driver of the car or motorbike must notify the Police within 24 hours if there is no person with the dog when the incident occurs.
Likewise, if your dog causes an accident or an event on the road that results in an injury, or even death to a third party, you, as the dog’s owner, could be liable. This is when a third-party liability insurance policy will prove very valuable to protect against any compensation or costs that may be levied on you.
As a responsible dog owner, it’s imperative that you know about and understands any legislation that relates to keeping a dog. This isn’t only for your or your dog’s benefit and to protect the wider community.
Please remember that this article only provides an overview of the Laws, and it’s up to you to keep up to date and check current legislation in your local area.
Finally, if you ever need advice on You, your dog and The Law, I would recommend contacting Trevor Cooper of Dog Law SOS