There’s much more to owning a dog than just providing it with food, water and a home. As a responsible pet owner you need to be aware of the rules and regulations that accompany being a dog owner. Just like certain animals require you to hold a licence before you can keep them as a pet, dogs have a set of rules and regulations that you must abide by in order to remain within the law.
No dog owner wants to be involved in a dog bite incident which is why it’s important to understand the law and know the rules that apply to you and your dog.
Out of control
It is illegal for your dog to be dangerously out of control anywhere. This includes in a public place, in your own home and in a private place – a neighbour’s home, private land etc.
A dog is considered to be dangerous and out of control if someone believes that it might injure them or if it does injure someone.
A court could also deem your dog out of control if it injures someone else’s animal or if the owner of another animal thinks that your dog could injure them if they try to stop it attacking their animal.
The penalties that accompany having a dog that is dangerously out of control vary.
If your dog is considered dangerously out of control then you could be sent to prison for up to six months and/ or fined £5,000. Your dog could also be destroyed and you may be prevented from owning a dog in the future.
If you allow your dog to cause someone injury then you could be sent to prison for up to five years/ and or fined.
If you allow your dog to kill someone then you could be imprisoned for up to 14 years and/ or receive an unlimited fine.
If you let your dog injure a guide dog then you can be imprisoned for up to three years and/ or fined.
There are four types of banned dogs in the UK:
However, whether or not your dog is a banned type depends entirely on what it looks like, rather than its name or breed.
If you own a banned dog then the police can take your dog, even if there has been no complaint made against it and it isn’t acting dangerously. If your dog is in a public place then it can be seized without a warrant. However, if it’s in a private place they must have a warrant. Be aware that if the police have a warrant to search a private property for a reason unrelated to your dog, they are still legally allowed to take your dog away.
If your dog is taken then a police dog expert or council dog expert will work out what type of dog you have. Once its identity has been established it will either be released back into your care or put in kennels while officials apply to court.
When in court you must prove that your dog is not a banned breed. If you can prove this then your dog will be ordered back into your care. If you can’t prove that your dog isn’t banned then your dog will be destroyed and you’ll be convicted of a crime. As a consequence you will be issued with a £5,000 fine and/ or six months in prison.
Dog Control Orders
Not all rules surrounding dogs are as serious as those revolving around dangerous dogs. Dog Control Orders (DCOs) are issued by local councils and could mean that in certain public places you will be required to:
- Keep your dog on a lead
- Put your dog on a lead if told to by a community official (e.g. police officer, PCSO, council official)
- Clean up after your dog
- Prevent your dog from entering certain areas of public land – for example, certain areas of a park
When a DCO is in place, there must be signs that clearly state where it applies. If the council are introducing a new DCO they must display a notice in a public area, publish it in a newspaper and also on their website. You should be given an address and/ or email address where you can send your opinion and you will have 28 days to do so.