The law relating to the keeping of guard dogs

What law applies to the keeping of guard dogs?

The law relating to the keeping of guard dogs is contained in the Guard Dogs Act 1975.

What is classed as being a guard dog?

A guard dog is defined under the Guard Dogs Act 1975 as being “a dog who is being used to protect premises; or property kept on the premises; or a person guarding the premises or such property”.

What does the Guard Dogs Act 1975 say?

Control of guard dogs

The Guard Dogs Act 1975 prohibits a person from using or permitting the use of a guard dog at any premises unless there is a person capable of controlling the dog (“the handler”) present on the premises and the dog is under the control of the handler at all times except where it is secured so that it is not at liberty to go freely about the premises.

The Act requires the handler of a guard dog to keep the dog under his control at all times while it is being used as a guard dog except where another handler has control over the dog or while the dog us secured so that it is not at liberty to go freely about the premises.

The Act prohibits a person from using or permitting the use of a guard dog at any premises unless a notice containing a warning that a guard dog is present is clearly exhibited at each entrance to the premises.

Where a person contravenes any of these requirements they commit a criminal offence which is punishable by way of a fine.

What premises are covered by the Act?

The Act covers buildings as well as land including parts of buildings, other than dwelling houses.

The Act does not apply to agricultural land and land within the curtilage of a dwelling house.

Restriction of keeping guard dogs without a licence

A person keeping a dog at guard dog kennels is required, by the Act, to hold a licence in respect of the kennels.

The Act prohibits a person from using or permitting the use at any premises of a guard dog where that person knows or has reasonable grounds to suspect that the dog (when not being used as a guard dog) is normally kept at guard dog kennels and no licence has been granted in respect of such kennels.

Where a person contravenes one of these requirements they commit a criminal offence which is punishable by way of a fine.

What is the meaning of “guard dog kennels”?

The term “guard dog kennels” is defined by the Act to mean “a place where a person in the course of business keeps a dog which (notwithstanding that it is used for other purposes) is used as a guard dog elsewhere, other than a dog which is used as a guard dog only at premises belonging to its owner”.

The licensing of guard dog kennels

Anyone who runs or intends to run guard dog kennels is required to obtain a licence in respect of the kennels. Such licences are granted by the local authorities.

How is an application made?

A person applying for a licence to run guard dog kennels is required to complete an application in the prescribed form and pay the prescribed fee. The form of application and the fee is prescribed by regulations made from time to time by the Secretary of State.

Refusal of an application

Where a licence is refused the applicant can appeal to the Magistrate’s Court.

Conditions of a licence

The local authority has the power to attach any conditions to a licence that it thinks fit.

Where the local authority attaches conditions to a licence or the local authority refuses to vary the conditions of a licence, the licence holder can appeal to the Magistrate’s Court.

How long does a licence last?

When a licence is granted, it comes into force on the date specified in the licence and expires at the end of the period of twelve months beginning with that date unless it is cancelled by a Court in the meantime.

Cancellation of licences by the Court

The Court has the power to cancel a licence when a person has been convicted of an offence under the Guard Dogs Act 1975, the Protection of Animals Act 1911, the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912, the Pet Animals Act 1951, the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963 or the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973.

The Court has the power to suspend the operation of the cancellation of a licence pending an appeal.