Jan 20

Dog laws in the UK

There are several acts in force that cover dogs and their owners, some dog laws are there to protect all involved but some are just plain stupid. Here's what we managed to find out involving dogs and the law.

Dog laws in the UK

Thank you for visiting the Play Fetch website. The site highlights on the joy that dogs can bring to your life, but many dogs aren`t fortunate enough to have a loving family. We are working with rehoming centres across the country to help them home our furry friends, please bookmark this website and come back soon to view the dogs that need you to give them the great life they deserve.

Dog laws in the UK date back to the 19th century but there are also more recent laws involving your dog we should all be aware of.

The most notable of these dog laws is the ‘Animal Welfare Act of 2007’ aimed at providing protection of animals. Previous acts were more concerned with laws protecting humans, but we will come to those a little later.

Update: A of 20th January 2011 UK parliament is considering a plan to introduce ‘Dog Asbos’. We will post more info on this as it becomes available.

Dog laws focused on dogs

The Animal Welfare Act of 2007 in short specifies that you must care for your pet in a proper manner. Obviously people differ in their definition of this, some owners keep their dogs outside year round, others cuddle up with them under the duvet. There are five major points here;

This act has been a breakthrough into looking after a dogs welfare. In addition to covering the above it also breaks into unnecessery suffering, tail docking, dog fighting and the sale of dogs.

Dog laws focused on humans

Whilst there is a little overlap, the majority of dog laws through the years have focused on protecting humans, our property and our health.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is a little outdated now and will most likely be reviewed in the coming years. The act similar to others contains quite a bit of ambiguity, for example the act states that a dog must not be dangerously out of control and create fear in an individual. One persons definition of this will differ from another’s. I regularly see a chocolate lab o my local field, he is a huge fella, soft as anything but huge. He bounds up to you making this grumbling noise, to a stranger this may seem very intimidating but to me he is just happy to see me. Is he dangerous – no. Could he be perceived as being dangerous -most definitely.

Under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 the dog may be destroyed. This act has close ties with the Dogs Act 1871 which then holds the dog owner/handler accountable.

Dangerous dogs

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 also specifies certain breeds of dog, namely the

These dogs should be registered, neutered, micro-chipped and insured. Failure to comply is a fine of upto £5000 and/or a 6 month spell in your local jail cell.

Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act of 2005

This act gives local councils the power of Dog Control Orders (DCO) letting them create specific orders relating to five offences

Up until 2003 Scotland took the first rule even further in that it was illegal to even let your dog foul in a designated public place regardless of whether you clean it up or not. The Clean Neighbourhoods act loosened this to ensure the waste is cleaned up, otherwise a penalty of upto £1000 can be enforced.

Control of Dogs Order 1992

The Control of Dogs Order require dogs in a public place to wear a collar and ID tag with the name and address of the owner/handler, failure to follow this and you could face a maximum £5000 fine. There are exceptions to this including service dogs and some working dogs.

Dog breeding

Breeding and Sale of Dogs Act 1999 requires anyone breeding a dog for the purposes of making money to be a licenced breeder. You must also not breed from a bitch younger than 12 months old. A single bitch must not have more than 2 litters in a 12 month period nor have more than six litters in her lifetime. Puppies must not be sold until they are at least 8 weeks old and must have accurate records.

Do you know of anything we missed out? Let us know using the comments below.

– failing to remove dog faeces

– not keeping a dog on a lead (the length can be specified)

– not putting and keeping, a dog on a lead when directed to do so by an authorised officer (the length can be specified)

– permitting a dog to enter land from which dogs are excluded

– taking more than a specified number of dogs onto land

9 Responses to “Dog laws in the UK”

  1. Michelle Dale says:

    How many dogs can i own?

  2. Laura Kahane says:

    Dear Sir/Madame,

    I am BA (Hons) Canine Behaviour & Training student currently working on a dissertation that aims to investigate and establish solutions to the current UK dog legislation issues. In particular, focusing on the Dangerous Dogs Act and the public perception, influenced by the media on specific breeds. Although studying at Middlesex university, I reside in and am concentrating my research on Hampshire as a regional sample. I wondered if you would be so kind as to offer my short survey to your clients (the link is provided below) & members on your website to take part in. I note that your a reputable and well established organisation that will yield accurate and valuable responses, from knowledgable participants.


    Your participation would be most appreciated.

    Many thanks

    Kind regards

    Laura Kahane



  3. Michael O'Halloran says:

    Can I ask if there is any responsibility on a dog owner to prevent their dog from urinating on my front garden. All the gardens in my road are open plan and dogs regularly urinate on my plants, killing or ruining the beauty of the plant. Or is it something I should just put up with?

    • Play Fetch says:

      Hi Michael

      I have just asked a lawyer friend and there are no laws regarding where a dog can urinate. If it is just one dog and owner then you can in theory take a a civil action but you’d have to prove that it is just the one owner. I’m guessing there are many, so unfortunately it looks like there’s not much you can do.

  4. Steve says:

    [quote]Dog breeding

    Breeding and Sale of Dogs Act 1999 requires anyone breeding a dog for the purposes of making money to be a licenced breeder. You must also not breed from a bitch younger than 12 months old. A single bitch must not have more than 2 litters in a 12 month period nor have more than six litters in her lifetime. Puppies must not be sold until they are at least 8 weeks old and must have accurate records.[/quote]

    Slightly incorrect, the law states that 4 or more litters must be born within a 12 month period for it to be classed as a business therefore requiring a license. It’s very wrong as this still allows back yard /hobby breeders to profit and release puppies before the 8 week guideline. Basically they can do what they want.

    • Play Fetch says:

      Thank you for the correction Steve, unfortunately the law isn`t strongly monitored (no point having it if it isn`t enforced) and people don`t have the knowledge to make an informed decision where to buy dogs from.

      Hopefully the more of us that promote dog welfare the better understanding there will be.

  5. Lisa says:

    Is there a minimum age at which someone can be in charge of a dog in a public place? I recently came across a young boy, with slightly older sister with a large dog he couldn’t hold onto when it pulled towards me and the 4 dogs I was walking.

  6. Hello there

    I hope you don’t mind me contacting you out the blue and via a blog comment – the link to your ‘contact’ page doesn’t seem to be working.

    My name is Matt and I’ve come across your site and think that a campaign I’m working on with the RSPCA (Get Puppy Smart) would be of interest to you and your audience – http://bit.ly/getpuppysmart

    It’s a timely campaign ahead of Crufts (running 10th-13th March) to raise awareness of the serious health and welfare issues experienced by pedigree dogs as a result of the way they’re bred – 46% of dogs (both crossbreeds and pure breeds*) bought in the last two years have suffered health problems and all of the 50 most popular breeds have some aspect of their body that can cause suffering.**

    Crufts uses breed standards to describe how a ‘perfect’ example of each breed of dog should look as the main judging criteria, which the RSPCA believes encourages the breeding of diseased and disabled dogs. The RSPCA will not have a presence there, sending a clear message that urgent action must be taken to improve the health and welfare of pedigree dogs.

    Fancy getting involved? We’d love you to help us spread the word about the campaign and the RSPCA’s decision not to attend Crufts again, perhaps as a blog post or a mention on Twitter. We’d also like to send you your own personal ‘Youdoo’ dog – let us know if you’d like one and the address we should post it too.

    Let me know if you have any questions – thanks in advance,


    The full detail:

    Research* shows that 60% of dogs bought in the last two years were pedigrees and 46% of dogs (both crossbreeds and pure breeds) bought in the last two years have suffered health problems. Pedigrees are often vulnerable to unnecessary disease, disability, pain or behavioural problems because they’re bred primarily for how they look rather than with health, welfare or temperament in mind. For example, dogs with short flat faces often have narrow nostrils and abnormally developed windpipes which can lead to severe breathing difficulties and prevent them from enjoying a walk or playing. A recent scientific study** also showed that all of the 50 most popular breeds have some aspect of their body that can cause suffering.

    Get Puppy Smart (http://bit.ly/getpuppysmart) aims to help prospective puppy buyers make the right decision by thinking about what type of dog best suits their lifestyle, how to find a good breeder and how to select a happy and healthy puppy. Just 26 per cent of people said they researched the diseases common in the breed of dog they were thinking of getting, and only 17 per cent of dog owners saw the disease screening test results for their puppy’s parents.

    Some useful links
    – Get Puppy Smart Guide: http://bit.ly/getpuppysmart (Source YouTube video – http://bit.ly/hgKeWx)
    – Get Puppy Smart exaggerated features interactive: http://bit.ly/dMJL4a
    – Get Puppy Smart exaggerated features factsheet: http://bit.ly/epfeWI
    – Get Puppy Smart inherited diseases factsheet: http://bit.ly/gk61Vt
    – Get Puppy Smart on Twitter: http://bit.ly/hjazR7

    *Research was conducted by TNS via OnlineBus, an internet survey. A sample of 7,272 GB adults aged 16-64 were interviewed. Of these, 848 people had acquired a puppy in the past two years. Interviewing was conducted by online self-completion from 23 November 2010 to 20 January 2011. **Asher L., Diesel G., Summers J.F., McGreevy P.D. and Collins L.M., 2009. Inherited defects in pedigree dogs. Part 1: Disorders related to breed standards. The Veterinary Journal. 182: 402-411

    Social media goodness.
    Translated. Created. Delivered.
    Check out our services here: http://www.nixonmcinnes.co.uk/what-we-do/

    Matt Matheson
    Project Manager & Consultant
    Direct line 01273 764 022

    Lees House, 21-23 Dyke Road, t. 01273 764 010 http://www.nixonmcinnes.co.uk
    Brighton, BN1 3FE f. 01273 764 011

    Registered in England and Wales. Company Number: 4116747

    • Play fetch says:

      Thank you for your contact Matt, the breeding of dogs for show purposes is something that I am very concerned about so I would love to be part of your campaign.

      An example of bad breeding would be the case of the German Shephard, many breeders favour a roach back (where the back arches downwards at the back legs) or with the Bassett Hound and their overly droopy eyes. None of theseissues would arise in the wild.

      I’ll write up a post to highlight your plight, and good luck with it all.

Leave a Reply