Are you a responsible dog owner? 10 rules you should follow – or face a hefty fine

  • Did you know that all dogs in a public place (in the UK) should wear a collar with the name, address and postcode of the owner inscribed on the collar or on a plate or badge attached to it? Or that some local authorities have introduced DNA testing of dog faeces to identify and fine owners who do not clean up after their dogs? There are dozens of Acts of Parliament that apply to those of us who own dogs, and breaching those laws could land you with penalties ranging from a fine, prosecution, imprisonment to destruction of your dog. Dog laws in the UK are many and varied, and it pays to be abreast of the latest updates.

    There are more than 20 pieces of legislation applying to dog ownership in Britain, according to welfare charity the Blue Cross. These pertain to the following areas:

    • Animal welfare
    • At home or on private property
    • Public places
    • Roads
    • Identification
    • Lost, found, stray dogs
    • Dog breeding and selling
    • Dog kennels and boarding

    Dog laws in the UK

    Without making too many assumptions about the readership of Horse & Hound, we’ve handpicked 10 of the UK dog laws most likely to trip up the average dog owner who tries to do their best by their pooch and their neighbours.

    1. All dogs must be microchipped and registered on a government-standard database by the time it’s eight weeks old. You can be fined up to £500 for not complying. You are responsible for updating the microchip information – for example, if you move house – according to the Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015, Microchipping of Dogs (Wales) Regulations 2015.

    2. Dogs must wear a collar and tag with your name and address when in a public place, with penalties up to £2,000, according to the Control of Dogs Order 1992.

    3. There is no law requiring your dog to be on a lead in all public places, however local authorities may require leads in playgrounds, sports fields, parks, beaches and so on, so check your council’s website. Furthermore, the Highway Code states that dogs should be on a short lead on any byways shared with cyclists or riders or when walking by a road.

    4. Dog fouling – you must scoop up your dog’s mess in public places. Not having noticed your dog fouling, or having run out of your stash of the best poo bags is not an excuse. The only exception is if you have a disability that prevents you from picking it up. Councils vary on the fine, but if it goes to court, you could be liable for £1,000 penalty. According to the Environmental Protection Act (1990), Litter (Animal Droppings) Order 1991; Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, The Countryside Code.

    5. Dog barking can be classed a “statutory nuisance”, and according to the Environmental Protection Act 1990, your dog can be taken away from you if it continues over a long period of time. Here’s some advice on how to stop nuisance dog barking.

    6. It’s against the law to dock a dog’s tail, except under certain circumstances – for medical reasons, or if you have a puppy destined to be a working dog (certain breeds only, which are different depending on whether you are in England or Wales) and the tail must be docked at less than five days old.

    7. You are responsible for preventing your dog from “worrying” livestock, such as sheep or cattle. Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, on “open access land”, dogs must be kept on a lead less than two metres long at all times around livestock. Offenders may be fined up up to £1,000, and farmers have the right to shoot any dog they believe is worrying livestock on their land.

    8. Can you take your dog to the pub? It’s down to the individual landlord. There is no law or health and safety regulation to prevent this, however they are not permitted in areas where food is prepared according to Food Hygiene Regulations 2013, under EU Regulation (EC) 852/2004, Annex II.

    9. You can’t walk too many dogs at once – but only in some places… Some councils have introduced restrictions on the number of dogs that can be walked at one time. In some city boroughs, there’s a limit of four, while several rural councils draw the line at more than six at a time.

    10. Does your dog need a seatbelt? Not officially. The Highway Code requires all animals to be “suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly”, and recommends a seatbelt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard. The Highway Code is not officially law, but many of its instructions are backed up by law and have legal weight. Here’s a selection of the best harnesses and best dog travel crates.

    UK dog laws: sheep lambing sign warning off dogs

    Farmers have the right to shoot dogs they believe are worrying livestock on their land

    How to find out more about UK dog laws

    If you want to delve further into the minutiae of the laws surrounding dog ownership, it can be tricky to know where to look to obtain the information you want. The UK government’s official website has information on pet ownership laws, but as it’s not all in one place, you need to know what you’re looking for. There are also local council rules, Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO), the Highway Code, Countryside Code and others to keep you and Fido on the straight and narrow.

    To get the most accurate and up-to-date information, you can:

    • Check official websites: the UK government’s official website provides information on pet ownership laws. You can stay up to date with the latest laws at legislation.gov.uk by searching for your area of concern.
    • Contact local authorities: local councils may have specific regulations and bylaws, for instance the number of dogs one person can walk at once, or the local fine for not picking up your dog’s poo. You can contact your local council or check their website for information on dog ownership in your area.
    • Consult with legal professionals: if you have specific legal concerns or questions, consider consulting with a legal professional who specialises in animal law.

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