Your Dog and the Law

At Holidays4Dogs we are very aware of the responsibilities that dog ownership brings and we are particularly conscious of this with regard to the control of dogs and dogs and the law. All our approved carers are very experienced but are provided with additional information on correct control and management of the dogs in their care, especially in public places. We feel it is very important to adhere not only to basic rules of etiquette when walking your dog; (see our separate article on this), but also to have a basic awareness of both national and local laws with regard to the care and management of dogs in society. Because Dog Laws can sometimes be quite complex we would always recommend as a dog owner you consider third party liability insurance as a precaution. All of our Holidays Dogs carers are comprehensively covered by third party liability insurance as well as a Care and Custody Extension.

This article will provide some information on a few of the main acts of legislation likely to impact on dog owners; we hope the following points will be useful for dog owners and carers in making positive decisions about how to manage and control their dogs, especially when out in public areas.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (and amendment 1997)

Although Dog Control Laws have been in existence since the 1871 Dog Act; recent amendments in 1991 and, significantly, in 1997 mean that owning a dog which is out of control or dangerous in a public (or private) place is a criminal and not just a civil offence. Crucially, a dog that is defined as out of control covers not only dangerously aggressively dogs that are liable to bite, but any dog (of any breed) that a member of the public considers to be a threat; i.e. if they think the dog looks as if it might bite and this causes them to feel afraid and threatened. This means if your dog is the sort who charges, barks or jumps up at other people for example, you could be liable to a complaint.

Therefore, it is very important that you keep your dog under control at all times. Your dog may well be boisterous rather than dangerous and he may enjoy charging at other walkers and their dogs in his attempts to play. However, if the other dog owner sees this as threatening behaviour they will be within their rights to make a complaint about you and your dog under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

It is very important for dog owners to be clear about this point and to exercise proper control over their dogs while out walking. Training issues such as recall (your dog coming back to you straight away particularly under distraction) are important things to consider and if it is difficult to get your dog back once he is off lead, it is essential that you seek help with this and/or keep your dog on the lead in areas of potential conflict; for example, in places where there are lots of other people, dogs, or livestock.

At Holidays4Dogs we do happily accept dogs from owners who require their dogs to be exercised off-lead. However, this is subject to written authorisation and subject to the dog having a good recall and good general levels of obedience. Our priority will always be to safeguard the dog in our care, while extending our consideration to other members of the public, taking into account local byelaws and national legislation.

The Road Traffic Act 1988

Under the Road Traffic Act 1998, it is vitally important you keep your dog on the lead on designated roads. Designated roads may differ from council to council under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environments Act 2005 (see below) so it is therefore prudent to keep your dog on a lead on any road, no matter how obedient you consider your dog to be. Dogs can be unpredictable and a cat or squirrel running under their nose may just be too much of a temptation. Should your dog run into the path of a car it is you as the dogs’ owner who will be regarded as negligent and not the driver. However, any driver who has an accident of any kind, including hitting a loose dog, must report this to the police within 24 hours and failure to do so could lead to prosecution of the driver. A dog is considered to be exempt from this act if he was travelling in a car which was involved in a road traffic accident and became loose or lost as a result.

Clean Neighbourhoods and Environments Act 2005

This Act provides local authorities to issue their own Dog Control Orders. This means that they can stipulate where you may, or may not, walk your dog off lead and even how many off-lead dogs you are allowed to have in your charge. Therefore, it is important to check notices which may be displayed in public parks and recreation grounds, for example. This Act also makes it an offence not to clean up after your dog in designated areas (though Holidays 4 Dogs advises you pick up after your dog at all times). There can be heavy fines for not complying, but as well as being a punishable offence in the eyes of the law, picking up after your dog should be regarded as a moral responsibility.

In addition, under this act councils have a duty to appoint a dog warden who will deal with issues of dog fouling and stray dogs. Any concerns you have with members of the public and their dogs fouling streets can be taken up with your local dog warden. Similarly, if you find a stray dog or if you have lost your own dog, your first port of call would be your local council dog warden. It is important therefore to ensure your dog carries identification at all times (see below for further clarification). Local councils can also become involved in cases of noise by barking dogs. If your dog causes excessive nuisance to neighbours by constant barking they can make a complaint to the local council, who in turn, have the powers to serve an abatement notice. For owners of noisy dogs who ignore this, they can be subject to heavy fines and legal expenses.

 The Control of Dogs Act 1992

Even if your dog is micro-chipped, under this Act you must still additionally provide clearly marked collar identification; providing your name, telephone number and address or post code. Holidays4Dogs provide their own identification tags which boarding dogs must wear at all times and all our carers are fully aware of this important criteria.

It is always a good idea to routinely check identification discs and tags as well as the collar itself, for signs of wear and tear; if your dog is lost without a collar and identification he can be seized as a stray and impounded. As a consequence, it is possible that the owner of the dog can be fined or even prosecuted.

 Protection of Livestock Act 1953 and Animals Act 1971.

Under these Acts, should the owner of a dog attack or injure livestock, the owner is liable for that damage. This means that a farmer can sue an owner if their dog is caught worrying livestock. Furthermore, this Act can be used by farmers to shoot a dog caught worrying stock, or is about to worry stock and if he feels there are no other reasonable means of stopping the dog from doing this. It can be particularly harrowing for owners of dogs who ‘take off’ out of sight after stock since farmers rights and justifications for shooting increase if they are unable to establish who the dog belongs to. There is no excuse for allowing your dog to be off-lead anywhere near livestock; lambing ewes can be particularly vulnerable and easily spooked by off-lead dogs. Even allowing your dog to range out on a longer length of lead could scare sheep. Cows, especially young bullocks and deer can become either overly inquisitive or territorial in the presence of dogs and it is not unknown for owners to be injured or, in extreme cases, killed by stock. Therefore, it is always sensible and safer for all concerned to keep your dog on the lead around grazing animals.

 The Animal Welfare Act 2006.

This act involves important provision for the welfare of all pet animals and it is intention is to guard against acts of cruelty and neglect. In addition to this, it stipulates that owners must provide a duty of care to any animal in their charge by providing them with a suitable environment and diet, protection from injury and disease and the freedom to exhibit normal behaviour.

While some of the above legislation can sound a little worrying, it is simply in place to protect you, your dog, other people and their dogs and generally won’t affect the average conscientious dog owner who practices responsible dog ownership in the community.

It should be pointed out that while every possible care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is for information purposes only and cannot be regarded as legal advice. If, as an owner, you find yourself affected by any of the above dog laws it is advisable to seek advice immediately. There are firms of solicitors who provide specialist advice on dog law and these can be found either on-line or via your local citizens advice bureau.