Pets bring with them a lot of responsibilities.
Keeping a dog involves much more than handling your pup’s day-to-day needs – and you could land in trouble with the authorities if you aren’t paying attention to what’s expected of you as an owner.
Here are nine laws you should know about if you have or want to get a dog.
Dogs must be micro-chipped
It is a legal requirement to have your dog micro-chipped in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This must be done by the time your dog is eight weeks old, and they must be registered with a database that meets government standards, such a Pet Log.
You can be fined up to £500 if your dog is not micro-chipped, and could have a court case filed against you.
Dogs must be kept under control
It is against the law to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control in a public or private space.
A dog is considered dangerously out of control if:
- it injures someone
- it makes someone worried it might injure them
- it attacks someone’s animal
- the owner of an animal thinks they could be injured if they tried to stop your dog attacking their animal
Owners can be issued an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to six months (or both) if their dog is dangerously out of control, and may be restricted from owning a dog in the future. The dog may also be put down.
If you allow your dog to injure someone, you can receive a prison sentence for up to five years, and be fined.
Keep your dog away from livestock
A dog must not chase or attack livestock on agricultural land, and should be kept on a lead.
If your dog is worrying livestock, a farmer has a right to stop your dog and even shoot it in some circumstances.
Failure to clean up after your dog can result in an on-the-spot fine, with amounts typically ranging between £50 and £80, depending on your local council.
Refusal to pay the initial fine can lead to the case being taken to court, where you could be fined up to £1,000.
Some councils have stricter rules, and may make it mandatory for owners to carry a poop scoop and disposable bag when they take their dogs out to a public place.
There are some exceptions for dog owners on some public land in England and Wales, including:
- Land used for agriculture or woodlands
- Rural common land, marshland, moor or heath
- Motorways with a speed limit of 50 mph or more
Registered blind people, or those with disabilities which restrict their sight or mobility, are also not required to clean up after their dogs, and working animals, such as sheep or police dogs, are also exempt while on duty.
The Dog Fouling (Scotland) Act 2003 also exempts fines for dog fouling on agricultural land.
Some dog breeds are banned
In the UK, it is against the law to own certain types of dog. These breeds are:
- Pit Bull Terrier
- Japanese Tosa
- Dogo Argentino
- Fila Brasileiro
If you have a banned dog, the police or local council dog warden can take it away and keep it, even if it isn’t acting dangerously – although the permission from a court may be required first.
A police or council dog expert will judge what type of dog you have and consider if it is, or could be, a danger to the public.
Based on this decision, your dog will either be released or kept in kennels while the police, or council, apply to a court.
The maximum fine for having a banned dog is £5000 and/or six months in prison.
The dog may also be destroyed.
Don’t be a noise nuisance
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, dog barking can be considered a statutory nuisance if it is intrusive and affects someone’s quiet enjoyment of their property.
If a complaint is made to the local council, they may serve a Noise Abatement Notice if they are satisfied a nuisance exists.
Failure to comply with an abatement notice can result in the noisy dog’s owner being prosecuted and fined.
Upholding your duty of care
Section nine of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 places a duty of care on owners to ensure they take reasonable steps to care for their pet, and must provide the following welfare needs:
- a suitable environment
- a suitable diet
- the ability to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
- to be housed with, or apart, from other animals
- to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
The Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 and Welfare of Animals Act
(Northern Ireland) make similar provisions, with owners forced to pay penalties if these care needs are not met.
Dog walking rules
Some public areas in England and Wales are covered by Public Spaces Protection Orders, in which you may be required to:
- keep your dog on a lead
- put your dog on a lead if told to by a police officer, police community support officer, or someone from the council
- stop your dog going to certain places, such as farmland or areas of a park
- limit the number of dogs you have with you
- clear up after your dog
If you ignore these rules, you can be fined £100 on the spot with a Fixed Penalty Notice, or up to £1,000 if the case goes to court.
Dog breeders need a license
Under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, breeders in England and Scotland who breed five or more litters per year must be licensed by their local authority.
In Wales, breeders who breed three or more litters within a 12 month period must be licensed.