As a dog owner what laws do I need to be aware of when I am taking my dog out for a walk?

Walking your pet dog and the law

There are a number of laws that a dog walker should be aware of. This article provides guidance on some of the main laws that a dog walker should bear in mind.

Environmental matters

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 gives local authorities and similar authorities the power to make “Dog Control Orders” in relation to public land. A Dog Control Order may relate to the fouling of land by dogs and the removal of dog faeces; the keeping of dogs on leads; the exclusion of dogs from land and the number of dogs which a person may take on to any land. Failure to comply with a Dog Control Order is a criminal offence punishable by a fine.

The Act gives local authorities and similar authorities the power to issue a fixed penalty notice to any person who is believed to have committed an offence under a Dog Control Order. If is an offence, punishable by fine, for a person to fail to supply his name or address or give a false or inaccurate name or address to a person authorised to issue a fixed penalty notice.

Leads, collars and muzzles

Under the Road Traffic Act 1988 it is a criminal offence to cause or permit a dog to be on a road, which has been designated by a local authority as a road to which the Act relates, without the dog being held on a lead. There are exceptions for dogs proved to be kept for driving or tending sheep or cattle in the course of a trade or business and for dogs proved to have been at the material time in use under proper control for sporting purposes.

The Control of Dogs Order 1992 requires every dog, (apart from a few exceptions which are set out in the order), while in a highway or public place to wear a collar with the name and address of the owner inscribed on the collar or on a plate or badge attached to it. The exceptions relate to packs of hounds, dogs being used for sporting purposes, dogs being used for the capture or destruction of vermin, dogs being used for the driving or tending of cattle or sheep, dogs being used on official duties by a member of the Armed Forces or Customs and Excise or a police force, dogs being used in emergency rescue work and dogs registered with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

It is a criminal offence, under the Animal Health Act 1981, where an owner or person in charge of a dog fails, without lawful authority of excuse (which he must prove) to comply with the requirements relating to collars as set out in the Control of Dogs Order 1992. The Control of Dogs Order 1992 also allows for any such dog to be seized and treated as a stray dog under the Dogs Act 1906 or the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Enforcement of any such offence is carried out by the local authorities.

Under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 it is a criminal offence to allow a pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa or any dog designated by the Secretary of State as being a dog bred for fighting, to be in a public place without being muzzled and kept on a lead by someone who is 16 years old or above. Where an offence is committed the offender may be imprisoned and/or fined. The Court may also order the destruction of the dog and may order the offender to be disqualified from having custody of a dog, for such period as the Court thinks fit.

Safety to others

If a dog is dangerously out of control in a public place the owner and any person in charge of the dog at the time commits a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. If the dog injures a person while so out of control an aggravated offence is committed. If at the time the dog was under the control of a person other than the owner, the owner will have a Defence if he can show that he reasonably believed the person was a fit and proper person to be in charge of the dog. Where an offence is committed the Court may order the destruction of the dog and may order the offender to be disqualified from having custody of a dog, for such period as the Court thinks fit.

Livestock

Where a dog causes damage by killing or injuring livestock the keeper of the dog is liable for such damage under the Animals Act 1971.

The Animals Act 1971 also provides a Defence to any civil proceedings brought against a person for killing or causing injury to a dog where the Defendant acted for the protection of livestock and was a person entitled to act for the protection of that livestock and reported the killing or injury to the officer in charge of a police station within 48 hours.

Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 where a dog worries livestock on any agricultural land, the owner of the dog and any person who is in charge of the dog at the time commits a criminal offence, punishable by a fine. There are exceptions for certain dogs, for example, police dogs, guide dogs, trained sheep dogs, working gun dogs and for packs of hounds.