Dog owners have a number of important responsibilities with strict laws on animal control, barking, identification, fouling, breeding and travelling.
There were almost 22,000 cases of out of control dogs causing injury across 2022 in the UK – up from a little over 16,000 four years prior.
And when a case lands in court, prosecutions for disobeying the rules can result in a range of varying punishments. Fines and compensation orders are at the bottom of the scale, but the most serious law breakers could find themselves handed community sentences, suspended jail sentences and even a custodial term depending on the severity of their offending.
Thankfully, to keep you in the clear, Birmingham Live has compiled a list of all of the dog laws you should know about.
The 2015 regulations for the microchipping of dogs impose strict rules so that dogs can easily be identified if lost, stolen, found, or given or sold to a new owner. All dogs over the age of eight weeks must have a microchip fitted and the owner’s details registered and kept up to date.
You could be fined £500 for not having your dog microchipped or failing to keep the database updated with changes such as a new address. If your dog is rehomed, the new owners must add their details. There are exemptions to microchipping if a vet believes there are valid reasons not to carry out the procedure.
It is against the law not to clean up after your dog in a public place. Similar rules can apply even if it’s on your own property – a man was recently prosecuted for failing to comply with a council’s Community Protection Notice over the smell and health risk of dog poo littering his back garden.
Blue Cross Vets says canine faeces can contain parasites that cause blindness in people as well as pregnancy loss in cattle. Owners can be issued with a fixed penalty notice of up to £100 or a fine of £1,000 if prosecuted for not complying with regulations.
The Highway Code states that dogs should not be let out on a road on their own and should be kept on a short lead when walking on the pavement or road or on a path shared with cyclists or horse riders. Councils can also make additional orders for dogs to be kept on a lead along ‘designated’ routes where signs will be installed to tell people they need to do so.
Many councils have also imposed Public Spaces Protection Orders that mean dogs must be kept on a lead in places such as children’s play areas, parks, beaches and sports pitches.
As well as a microchip, dogs must wear a collar with the owner’s name and address on it (or on a tag attached to it) when in a public place. Under the Control of Dogs Order 1992, owners can be fined up to £2,000 for not doing this.
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, barking can be classed as a statutory nuisance. The council can ask people to stop their dogs from annoying neighbours with persistent barking and, if it continues, they can even take the dog away.
Allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control “in any place” is against the law, whether in public or in your own home or garden. However, a dog’s owner or keeper would not be guilty of this if “the person in relation to whom the dog is dangerously out of control is in, or is entering, the building or part as a trespasser” – so if it bites a burglar or attacker who has no right to be in your home, this law doesn’t apply.
Blue Cross Vets points out a dog doesn’t have to bite or physically injure someone for it to be considered out of control – it could still be an offence if someone simply fears your dog could hurt them because of its behaviour.
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, dog owners can be prosecuted if they don’t look after their pets and could face a fine of up to £20,000 or a prison sentence of up to 12 months, as well as a ban on keeping animals. The Act says pets have the legal right to be properly housed, given the right food and protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
Docking a dog’s tail (except for medical reasons or in certain breeds) or cropping its ears is also illegal.
The Highway Code says that when in a vehicle, people must make sure dogs (or other animals) are “suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly”. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are recommended as ways of restraining animals in cars.
Owners whose dogs cause a road accident that results in injury, illness or death could find a claim being brought against them. The Animals Act 1971 states that the keeper of the animal is liable for the damage.
Vets suggest owners have insurance to protect against this because legal costs and compensation can run into tens of thousands of pounds. If a dog is injured or killed in an accident, drivers or riders must give their details to the animal’s owner or keeper.
If there is no-one with the dog, the incident should be reported to police within 24 hours.
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