let’s lay it out
Recently I saw a post in a Facebook (Ew, I know) breed support group that left me reeling at how many people were unaware of the basic dog laws that apply to them and their dogs. So I thought I would throw together a quick guide of the basic dog laws that we as dog owners should be aware of, for the sake of you and your dogs.
Tags and Microchips
Under the Control of Dogs Act (1992), all pet dogs must wear a collar with identification tags attached when in public - ID tags must include the following information (whether or not you agree with it);
While legally you do not have to include a contact number, it is strongly advised. I also advise adding “I am microchipped” to your dog’s tag too.
Now, the law specifically states that your dog must wear a collar in public, so even if you walk your dog on a harness you must also have a collar with tags on your dog too. I have ID tags attached to both my dogs' collars and harnesses as I fully believe in being extra cautious. Owners found to be in breach of this can be fined up to £2000. The only exemption to this law is working dogs at work, such as Spaniels working on a shoot where wearing collars can be a safety risk.
Microchips are everywhere. Even in your dog. (Not these though)
In 2015 it became compulsory for all dogs over the age of 8 weeks to be microchipped and a new law to support this was introduced; the Microchipping of Dogs Regulations (2015). All puppies should be microchipped before leaving their breeder and the breeder should also be the first registered keeper on the microchip (the microchip must have been registered to the breeder before the puppy is sold to you). Breeders must provide you with the correct microchip paperwork when the puppy is sold. Owners are also required under these regulations to keep microchip details up to date if they move house or rehome the dog. Failure to get your dog microchipped or keep the chip details up to date can result in a £500 fine and prosecution.
Should there be a medical reason that a vet feels there is a valid health reason to not microchip a dog, they can provide a legal exemption certificate.
-Under Section 27 of the Road Traffic Act (1988), your local authority has the right to ask you to keep your dog on a lead by “designated roads” – any road your local authority marks with signs saying that your dog must be on a lead. Check your local area or with your local council to see if you have any designated roads in your area. While it is not legally mandated on all roads, I would never advise anyone to walk their dog off lead next to a road. It is not worth the risk, even with the best-trained dogs.
- Under Section 170 of the Road Traffic Act (1988), any driver who hits or injures a dog with their vehicle must provide their name and address to the dog's owner (or person in charge of the dog). If no person is present, they must report the accident to the police within 24 hours.
- Section 2 of the Animals Act (1971) says that if your dog causes a traffic accident that results in injury, illness or death, you are liable to third party claims being brought against you. So make sure that you have good third party liability cover on your insurance policy.
I can’t believe that this one is still a point of contention. Your dogs must not be allowed to “Worry” livestock: this means that you must not let your dog attack, chase or be out of control off lead around livestock including cattle and sheep. Even if your dog does not attack livestock, chasing or barking at them can cause pregnant animals to terminate due to stress. There are several different laws that apply to your dogs around livestock, depending on the type of land you are on;
Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act (1953)
Section 3 of the Animals Act (1971)
Countryside and Rights of Way act (2000)
The Countryside and Rights of Way act (2000) law very clearly states that when on “access land” (land with a right of way footpath across it), your dog must be kept on a lead that is no more than 2 metres long at all times when around livestock.
To me, this is a simple law and yet I regularly see people in fields with livestock with their dogs off lead and far too close to livestock with no recall. Even people who take their dogs right up to livestock in the name of “socialisation”. If you even suspect there may be livestock in a field – put your dog on a fixed-length, short lead. Not a Flexi lead (these are dangerous and can fail easily), not a longline. A short lead. Give livestock as much space as possible and teach your dog to focus on you around livestock. This way you, your dog and the livestock you pass will all have a nice, simple, stress-free life.
You can be fined up to £1000 if your dog is found to be worrying livestock and on private land and farmers do have the right to shoot any dog they deem to be worrying livestock. Yes, that can include your dog and no, you have no say or defence against it.
Rule 57 of the Highway Code requires that dogs be suitably restrained so they cannot distract the driver. While breaking the Highway Code is not an offence in itself, police will often take it into account in the event of an accident. You should also keep your dog restrained so that they don’t get injured in the event of a crash. Safe restraints include;
Harnesses attached to the seatbelt, you can get clips that clip into the seatbelt or handles that the seatbelt threads through.
Dog grates/bars to prevent the dog from climbing through to the driver.
When it comes to travelling your dog, pick the method that you feel safe with and that your dog is comfortable with. However, I do always advise that you consider and think about impact zones in a crash – for most cars, the boot is designed as a “Crumple zone” to reduce damage in a crash, so if our dogs are in the boot they may be at risk if someone rear-ends you. Most of the crates we use for our dogs in the car are also not designed to withstand the impact of a car. If you are someone who travels a lot with your dog, or if your dog is its happiest travelling in the boot, I strongly suggest investing in a crash-tested dog travel crate. I use a Mim-Safe VarioCage for my dogs and it has been well worth the money for the peace of mind it gives me knowing that my dogs are safe and secured.
These aren't cheap, but we really like them.
Dangerous Dogs Act
Both in public and on private land – including your home – it is against the law to allow your dog to be ‘dangerously out of control’. Legally, your dog can be considered dangerously out of control if a person reasonably believes that your dog may injure them. They do not have to actually bite or otherwise injure a person to be considered ‘dangerously out of control’. This means that you have a legal obligation to make sure that your dog doesn’t scare, injure or bite; members of the public on walks, postal workers, emergency workers, visitors to your home or delivery drivers.
The person in charge of the dog (this doesn’t have to be the owner!) can be prosecuted for allowing their dog to be dangerously out of control, penalties include;
Up to 6 months in prison where no injury is caused
Up to 3 years in prison for causing injury
Up to 14 years in prison for any attack resulting in death
A £5000 fine for cases where no injury was caused
An unlimited fine in the instance of injury or death
A disqualification from owning pets
A control or destruction issued for the dog (meaning you can be ordered to have your dog on lead and muzzled when in public for life, or even put down)
It is also an offence for your dog to injure any registered assistance dogs – such as a guide dog – and similar penalties apply.
This is serious legislation and you must take your legal obligation seriously. In the G&S household, we are very aware that not everyone appreciates a fun-filled 40kg Oaf bouncing at them and trying to give flying kisses. So, at home we have baby-gates up that the dogs can be easily put behind if needed when people come into the house, we practice a LOT of door-manners so I can answer the door without doggy help, and on walks, we have a rocking recall or use a longline if it’s a “Teenagery Day”.
Animal Welfare Act & Shock Collars.
Under section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2009, all dogs have the legal right to;
Live in a suitable environment
Eat a suitable diet and have access to fresh water
Exhibit normal behaviour
Be free from pain, suffering, injury and disease
This means that if you suspect your dog is unwell, or have any concerns, you must provide veterinary treatment. If you do not provide veterinary treatment, suitable food, water, keep them in a safe environment or prevent them from exhibiting natural behaviour then you can be prosecuted for causing suffering.
Penalties for this include;
Being fined up to £20,000
A prison sentence of up to 5 years
Have your pet/s removed from your care
Be banned from keeping pets in the future.
It should also be noted that electric collars (E-collars/shock collars/stim collars) are banned in Wales. This includes any collar operated by remote control, anti-bark collars and collars linked to electric or “invisible” fences. The above penalties apply for the use of these collars in Wales.
In 2018 the Government voted to extend the electronic collar ban to England – but has yet to add this into law. I, along with thousands of other positive reinforcement dog trainers and behaviourists welcome this ban wholeheartedly and hope the Government adds an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act soon, as well as hope that they will include the same collars as the Welsh regulations.
A change in the law in 2018 now means that anyone breeding dogs may be subjected to new licensing laws. The new laws state;
Anyone breeding three or more litters a year and selling at least one of the puppies must be licensed by their local council
If they make more than £1000 profit from the sale of puppies then they can be classified as a business and should also be licensed by their local council.
Unlicensed breeders can receive a prison sentence of up to six months and a large fine. I would always advise anyone buying a puppy to only buy a puppy from someone registered with a breed club or licensed by the council. They have to meet minimum welfare standards and are usually regularly inspected to ensure they are meeting these requirements.
Puppies are cute, but keep a cool head and ask the right questions before you commit.
It is also illegal for anyone to sell a puppy under the age of 8 weeks old, as well as for anyone other than the puppy’s breeder to sell the litter. Puppies cannot be sold in any public places (such as the street, a pet shop, or motorway service stations) and must be able to be seen with their mother prior to sale.
I’ll be doing another blog soon on choosing the right puppy for you and how to find a good breeder.
Boarding – both kennels and at home
Lastly, any establishment that boards dogs be it for the day or overnight, must be licensed by the local authority. This includes kennels, daycare centres, home boarders and dog walkers who offer daycare services at their homes. Over the last 18 months lots of new dog boarding and daycare businesses have started up – so please check that they are adequately licensed before sending your dog to them, no matter who recommended their services to you.
You should always ask to see a copy of their license and check with your local authority that they hold the relevant license for boarding/daycare services.
Personally, I would always advise not to use a home daycare/boarding service that has more than 4 or 5 dogs at any one time. I almost never advise clients to use an all-day daycare service or centre, for many reasons.
Dog laws can feel complex, and there can be additional local bye-laws to obey too, so this is just an overview of the nationwide laws, but largely they boil down to common sense, a little bit of research and just not being a dick.