You could probably stop any number of people out walking their dog and ask them how much they know about the legal aspects of owning a dog, and maybe 85% of them would say, “I need a dog licence”. You could ask them to go on, and they might say, “ah yes, I have to carry a pooper scooper when we are out”. Perhaps 85% is an overly pessimistic figure, but I guarantee that the majority of dog owners are not FULLY aware of what their responsibilities are.
There is a whole raft of rules, regulations and binding LAWS covering the ownership of pet dogs and a load more covering professional dog walkers and boarding kennels. I will only look at those covering individual dog owners here, though. It might even be a good idea to read all the relevant stuff BEFORE getting the dog. Having got the animal, though, you will be looking forward to taking him out for a walk, but this simple, pleasurable act is fraught with many dangers.
For example, say yours is a large dog with a bit of a temper where other dogs are concerned, and you meet a fellow dog walker coming towards you. Yours goes for the other one in an aggressive way, and you can’t hold him back on the leash. If the other dog is damaged in some way, you are then fully responsible for the vet’s bills incurred by the attack. Apart from that, the other dog owner just might sue you as well for the trauma and distress suffered.
The incident described above probably happens hundreds of times a day in any given town, but, thankfully, the effects can be minimised by strong and timely intervention on the part of the owners. However, imagine the carnage that can be caused if both dogs are off the lead? Similarly, what if a couple of rival dogs get into a running altercation that involves rampaging over people’s property? Lots of people these days have open plan front gardens, and a couple of large dogs can do a LOT of damage to the shrubs and flower beds if they are not stopped. Again, the dog owner would be responsible for this damage.
Though not legally binding, it is a good idea to have adequate pet insurance – better that than risking thousands of pounds in damage or legal bills. To conclude, though, I will list a few things that are covered by the law:
Picking up dog poop.
This is the law under The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, and you can be fined up to £1,000 if you fail to pick up faeces.
Keeping the dog on a lead when notices are up saying they must be restrained – next to a public road is a good case in point
I often see people with dogs of lead in public places, and this is, in fact, against the law under The Road Traffic Act 1988. If a dog is injured in a car accident, the driver must stop and give their details to the person in charge of the dog. If there is no person in charge of the dog, the incident must be reported to the police within 24 hours. Also, if your dog is found to be the cause of the accident, then you may be liable to prosecution under the Animals Act 1971. So please be safe and make sure you keep your dog on a lead near roads etc.
Making sure the dog wears a collar with an ID tag on it
The Control of Dogs Order 1992 . The tag must have the owners name and address and, ideally, a contact number. Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to £5,000 if your dog does not wear an identification tag
Keeping your dog under control in a public area and away from livestock
What about the laws relating to Dog Walkers?
Unfortunately, in the UK, there are currently very few laws specifically aimed at dog walkers, although dog walkers must have suitable and adequate public liability insurance.
Please remember, as, with all businesses, you will get some people that see a dog walking as a way of earning a few extra pounds on the side. There is a lot more to professional dog walking.
Dog walking is now starting to become recognised as a professional industry, and any decent dog walker will usually be a member of some kind of professional pet care body such as NARPS UK.
A professional dog walker will not only have insurance (which is a must) but also be experienced with dogs, have taken some kind of pet first aid qualification, and undergone other training so they can cope with situations such as dog aggression that may arise.