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Important laws dog owners need to be aware of

Updated: May 17


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These laws apply to people living in England, some of them could easily and accidentally become an issue for carers, particularly with a dog which has some behaviour issues. Accurate April 2022.


Collar and Tag law – Control of Dogs Order 1992

When in a public place the dog must be wearing a collar(or headcollar) and tag, the tag must give the owners name, address (minimum house no and postcode), a phone number is optional. Failure to comply could result in the local authority prosecuting the owner, or if different the person in charge of the dog at the time.

Anyone taking ownership of a new dog should get the collar and tag ready for the dog. Carers must ensure their dog can not escape their property when they are not wearing their collar/tag.

Microchipping

By the age of 8 weeks puppies must be microchipped, if entering the country past this age they must be chipped prior to entry. The microchip must comply with set standards and be registered on a database that is DEFRA compliant. The keeper of the dog must be registered with address and phone number. Failure to comply could lead to a fine of up to £500

When taking ownership of a new dog the carer should check with the previous owner or rescue centre that the microchip is in place and get the registered details changed. The rescue should be able to scan the chip and prove it is there, or a vet can scan and check. Paperwork should be received giving the dog’s microchip details when registered or changed.

Community Protection Notice

The Council or Police can serve a notice on someone if their dog is having a detrimental effect on the quality of life for those living locally. The impact being felt would be described as persistent and unreasonable. A maximum fine of £2500 could be given. A couple of example behaviours are allowing the dog to stray, allowing the dog to escape into a neighbours garden.

Carers must ensure their property is secured so the dog can not escape. If getting a new dog it could be worth letting neighbours know as initially while the dog settles there may be some extra barking, by discussing this with the neighbours and assuring them the barking will reduce as the dog settles it may reduce the chances of anyone complaining.

Dog noise nuisance

A dog barking regularly or for prolonged periods could cause a neighbour to make a dog noise nuisance complaint. The volume, duration and time of day will impact the success of the complaint. The council will investigate and if after a ‘noise abatement notice’ has been served the issue continues a prosecution may be done under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. A community protection notice may also be served.

As above when getting a new dog there may be extra barking while the dog settles and pre-warning the neighbours may help. Excessive barking should be addressed through management and training. Understanding why the dog is barking is needed to come up with the right management and training plan. Every effort should be made to avoid separation related behaviours which can lead to excessive barking while the carer is out and not able to stop it.

Dogs dangerously out of control – The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 section 3

It is a criminal offence if someone reasonably fears injury, if proven beyond reasonable doubt the dog will be considered as dangerously out of control under section 3 of the act. If the dog injures a person or an assistance dog while out of control it will be regarded as an aggravated offence. Someone can be prosecuted if they are looking after someone elses dog when the offence happens. Allegations are usually investigated by the Police but it could be the council. The dog can be seized and the owner or person in charge at the time can be arrested. Where the case is going to court specialist lawyers should be engaged to assist in defending the case, in worst cases long prison sentences can be given and the dog can be euthanised. If the dog has hurt an intruder in the owners house (not garden) this could be a statutory defence. In minor cases no action is likely beyond a caution if the dog is usually good natured, lessons have been learnt, this was an isolated incident and the owner is responsible.

Carers are far less likely to have an issue if they keep their dog on lead in public areas, if the dog is off lead and approaches someone else’s dog who is nervous, and the owner feels threatened by the situation they may complain to the Police. A complaint against a dog can be made because someone felt in danger, there doesn’t have to be an actual bite. If a dog runs up to someone barking, because it is people-reactive, this could lead to a complaint to the Police. Carers should keep dogs on lead in public places unless there is a 100% guaranteed recall. With dogs who are people reactive the dog should be muzzle trained so if the dog lunges at someone who gets too close it can not do any harm.

Carers must be aware that an offence could happen in their home, if they have a visitor who gets bitten because the dog was scared the visitor has a case for complaining. A dog which can get nervous with new people should be carefully managed when anyone enters the house, particularly workmen. The dog can be muzzled if trained and kept well away from workmen. For friends and family visiting training can be done to allow them to safely visit and for the dog to feel safe.

An incident does not have to be a bite, if a big dog jumps up at someone, even being friendly and just wanting to say hello but knocks them over, resulting in the person being injured this could result in a complaint to the Police.

Dangerous Dogs Section 2 Dogs Act 1871

This is a civil complaint often heard in a Magistrates Court. Proceedings are against the owner, the claim is that the dog is generally dangerous which would need multiple incidents or a single exceptional incident, and is not kept under proper control usually meaning off lead and without muzzle.

Dogs (protection of Livestock) Act 1953

This is a case where the dog has worried livestock on agricultural land. ‘Worrying’ covers attacking livestock, chasing livestock such that they could be injured or suffer, being off lead and not under the owners close control in an area where livestock are. A fine of £1000 plus compensation could be the outcome.

Dogs should be kept on lead, even a very well trained dog may be tempted to chase if faced with some running livestock. When out walking carers should be aware of what may be in the field they are approaching and if not sure put the dog on lead.


Conclusion

There are many laws which an average owner can easily fall foul of, a moment of not being fully aware could result in a broken law: a dog off lead in quiet countryside suddenly in a field of sheep, a dog off-lead getting overexcited and bounding up to someone with a nervous dog who feels threatened by the off-lead dog, a people reactive dog being startled by someone coming around a corner and snapping at them, not having the dog suitably secured when the gasman enters the house and the dog snaps at them out of fear and delivers a bite. So many incidents which if reported could lead to a visit from the Police and a fine, possibly a criminal record for someone normally 100% law abiding. There would be luck, or lack of, involved in many situations, some people will be understanding and let the situation go without further action, some people will go to the Police for something relatively minor.

For more serious issues legal support from a company who specialise in dog law is essential, these lawyers will be the dogs voice in court and could mean the difference between the dog being allowed to remain at home or being put into a court appointed kennels and ultimately they could save the dog from being euthanised. Large prison sentences could also be faced in severe cases by owners or someone looking after the dog at the time of the offence.


References

Doglaw.co.uk (not dated) specialists in dog law [online] Coopers & Co. Solicitors Available from https://doglaw.co.uk/ [Accessed April 2022]