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Dog Laws in the UK

By: Sandy Bolan - Updated: 16 Mar 2019 | comments*Discuss
Dangerous Dogs Control Obedience

Dog ownership is a privilege that must be taken seriously. All dog owners must raise and care for their dogs in a specific manner - one that does not harm the dog in any way. Dog owners must also follow specific dog legislation.

Having dog-specific laws in place may seem unreasonable, however, they were created, and are implemented, for society's safety, as well as that of the dog.

Every dog, no matter its size or breed, must be trained in basic obedience. This will go a long way in keeping your dog out of harm's way, and hopefully you and your dog will never have an encounter with local authorities.

To help owners out, the Kennel Club dog owners group has created two programs, the first being the Safe and Sound Scheme, which was created "to promote the safe interaction between children and dogs, and teaches children how to behave around dogs and to stay safe," according to the Kennel Club. "It can never be taken for granted that any dog will be 100 per cent safe with everyone all of the time."

The second program is the Good Citizen Dog Scheme, which covers both theoretical and practical dog training skills.

Under Control

As of 1992, the Control of Dogs Order requires any dog in a public place to wear a collar and ID tag with the name and address of the owner on it. Failure to comply can lead to a £5,000 fine.

However, every rule, including this one, has its exceptions. Dogs exempt from wearing a collar and ID tag in public include: dogs on official duty for the armed forces, HM Customs and Excise or police; sport dogs and packs of hounds; dogs used for capturing or destroying vermin; dogs used for driving/tending cattle or sheep; guide dogs for the blind; and dogs used for emergency rescue work.

Poop and Scoop

Did you know that until 2003 in Scotland, it was illegal to let your dog go potty in specified public places, regardless of whether or not the dirty deed was immediately removed or not.

The new act now makes public fouling an offence only when it is not immediately cleaned up. The remainder of UK dog owners who fail to scoop their dog's poop can be slapped with a £1,000 fine under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.

Another way in which local authorities are trying to keep neighbourhoods beautiful is by handing out dog control orders. "This means that councils will be able to make an order for a standard offence to apply to land within their area," reports the Kennel Club.

Offences likely covered included: not putting or keeping a dog on a lead when directed to do so by an authorised officer; permitting a dog to go onto unauthorised land; and taking more than the specified number of dogs onto land.

When it comes to trespassing, the Animals Act 1997 empowers farmers to shoot, without warning, dogs the farmer feels is a threat to his livestock. The dog's owner could face criminal prosecution for the same offence.

Dangerous Dogs

As of 1991, all breeds or types of Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino or Filo Braziliero must be registered, neutered, microchipped, tattooed and insured. "It is an offence to breed, sell, exchange or give away a dog of these breeds and they must have been registered by the end of November 1991. It is not possible to register them now," according to Birmingham Public Health.

If you illegally own one of these dogs, you can be hit with a maximum fine of £5,000 and/or six month's imprisonment.


Dog breeders who breed five or more litters a year must be licensed under the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999. Even if you breed fewer than five litters a year, but breed for business purposes, you too must be licensed.

The Act also states that licensed breeders: cannot mate a bitch under 12 months old; cannot whelp more than six litters from a bitch; cannot whelp two litters within a 12-month period from the same bitch; they must keep accurate records and puppies cannot be sold until they are eight weeks old. However, they are able to sell puppies, less than eight weeks of age, to a licensed pet shop or Scottish rearing establishment.

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Please help, what can I do to help our neighbours dogs? These poor dogs are never walked and are kept indoors, I hear them crying most days and they are using the dogs to purely breed puppies, I feel for these dogs, the neighbours are new to the area and they are already selling their second litter of puppies, is there a limit that a little dogs body can take or am I just being silly and this is normal?
Prin - 16-Mar-19 @ 4:09 PM
response to Val who said "I was at the park today with my 5 month old puppy, who is overly friendly in the sense of she loves everyone." Sorry about your encounter but to be honest your pup is YOUR responsibility and if someone has their dog under control and yours starts annoying or threatening then they can, according to the law defend their animal.I love dogs but in a public place keep my two on a lead or, if I seen another dog on a lead I ensure mine do not approach it. You see no harm in what your puppy was doing but you have no knowledge of what the other person's dog might do and therefore it is both rude and inconsiderate . Your puppy needs to be taught good manners from the get go and learn that it cannot just approach anyone or any dog it wants to.
Dizzy - 14-Mar-19 @ 11:58 AM
Hi there, I had someones dogs for two years straight now while owner went away on hollidays, it was only meant be to be few weeks and looked after it like my own child, absolutely love this dog. Then recently owner appeared out of the blue saying that she wants dog back soon. Is there anything I can do to keep this dog??.
Tom - 6-Feb-19 @ 8:04 PM
Where are replies to the above comments?Am I missing the advice/ reply section.I can't see any/one. There are important questions being asked here that need advice/help.I too have a question that is similar to one above but feel it's pointless to ask if the person who owns/posted this site doesn't answer important requests!
Star Indigo - 17-Dec-18 @ 4:28 PM
Why are there no replies/advice to any of the above questions? Or is there somewhere else you can go to on this site that I'm missingfor replies advice?
Starchild - 17-Dec-18 @ 4:20 PM
A man regularly visits one of my neighbours for hours at a time and leaves his dog tied up outside in all weather including icy nights like we have got now. What can I do about this as the dog isn't friendly either and I'm worried he's either going to bite someone walking past or someone will lash out at him as he is left barking until early hours in the morning when the owner leaves.
Concerned citizen - 15-Dec-18 @ 11:41 PM
I was at the park today with my 5 month old puppy, who is overly friendly in the sense of she loves everyone. She ran over to play with another dog about the same size as her twice, on the second turn the owner kicked my dog stating that she was mounting his dog. I told him that if he touched her again I was going to phone the police and explained that she was only a puppy. But the guy just kept mouthing off. I'm now feeling anxious incase he is there again. I take my puppy there everyday and she plays well with others. She has made some friends that she sees regularly and this guy was definitely not a regular. I just want to know what to do should he be there and possibly happen again. It's not like she was being aggressive, she was just wanting to play. Any help would be great, I need to put my mind at ease.
Vall - 2-Dec-18 @ 9:57 PM
I wondered if you could help... A 'friend' dumped their dog on us a year or so ago. Despite not asking after her or paying towards her care or even interacting with her when they've seen her we've heard that they're planning on having the dog back within the next year (vague I know!). We love the dog dearly and she is in a much better state as she was quite neglected before but as the registered owner, can the dog be legally taken from us and given back to the friend? Advice gratefully received.
Hippopig - 2-Dec-18 @ 12:42 AM
Somebody on this site mentioned that a new dog law came into force on 24/10/18. Apparently the new law states that all dogs must be put on a lead in communal areas, the back and front gardens. Could somebody please confirm if this is true and where I can find further information.
Violet - 27-Nov-18 @ 2:55 PM
I split from my husband and in Feb this year I needed support with my dog (4 1/2 years) we got her at 8 weeks old, I was working long days to keep afloat. I had no choice but to get her to a foster home hopefully just temporary. I recieved a call on Tuesday stating she was in a shelter. I explained I had her placed in foster care and explained my situation in detail. After, I phoned the lady who helped me find the foster home for Biscuit and she tried contacting others involved to be told she'd been moved to a different home. They said I could not get her back as there may be a family out there looking for her. Initially they said my details weren't on the chip and they got my number off the vet. I then phoned the chip company and he said the previous chip company who they took made lots of errors and information was nit put on a lot of chips. I sent him my kennel club papers and he put them on as they should have been. I never signed any documentations when Biscuit went to foster carer so therefore I can't understand why they won't let me go and bring her home. I've just started a new job 5 mins from home and part time. They are saying I have to wait 10 days for her new owner to claim her. Is this right? They are saying because it's council
Beth - 25-Oct-18 @ 11:47 PM
My neighbour has been away for a week on holiday their dog has been left in the house on her own with someone coming in twice and occasionally 3 times to let her out but only for 5 mins she howls and barks constantly obviously lonely possibly distressed what .canI do? Should I call rspca I am definitely speaking to her when back but I have no idea when that would be
Mm - 24-Oct-18 @ 8:28 PM
I've been told today a new law has come into play about dogs from today 24/10/2018, that all dogs must be put on a lead in communal areas, the back and front gardens. I understand that with parks but I live in a block of 4 flats as a council tenant and am being told now my dogs must be put on a lead even when I take them out into the back garden. Is it right what I've been told?
Gypsy - 24-Oct-18 @ 2:35 PM
Hi need some advice my daughter was a stable hand at a dog brerders. One of their pups was returned as new owner couldnt handle him. He bit the breeders husband and was so scared when returned. My daughter felt sorry for this pup who is now 2 and has worked hard to gain his trust. Taught him to sit stay and other things she has been allowed to walk him and take him off in her car. But the last few months the breeder has been threatng to put the dog down if my daughter didnt have him. She told them from the begining she could not have him at home. They agreed to let the pup stay in one of their kennels. The license person was going to them this week so again they told my daughter this pup was booked in to be pts. Desperate to save this pups live she went and got him from the breeder and slept in her car with him all night. So myself and my daughter got hold of a rescue place who said they would have him. Now the breeder wants to sue my daughter for trying to save this pups live.
Disney - 11-Oct-18 @ 9:07 AM
Where do I stand I got gaving dog 6 months ago from a lady as her foster daughter did not want him so gave him to me the foster daughter is now saying she never said she did not want him she's now wanting him back where do I stand
Liz - 24-Sep-18 @ 4:16 PM
Is there a legal limit on how long a dog can be left alone?
Plugg - 24-Sep-18 @ 8:52 AM
my neighbour has 11 husky dogs in a three bed they have not much garden only walked twice a day cant be right can it x
snowflake39 - 16-Sep-18 @ 10:30 PM
Annie - Your Question:
Is it lawful to leave dogs locked in a house alone overnight?Thanks

Our Response:
Much depends upon whether there is any neglect involved. Dogs can be left alone if they have food and water, but if a person leaves a dog unattended for long periods they can be reported and it is up to the RSPCA to make a decision on a case-by-case basis. Please see the link here.
SaferPets - 10-Sep-18 @ 11:46 AM
Is it lawful to leave dogs locked in a house alone overnight? Thanks
Annie - 8-Sep-18 @ 10:52 PM
Hi, I would have a question. I am planning to move with a friend to Edinburgh, into a flat that I will buy, so it would not be rented. (We both live outside of the Uk currently)Are there any laws that maximise the number of dogs in one flat? We have 4medium size dogs altogether, australian shepherds and border collies.The dogs are trained, obedient, and socialized, so they would not disturb the neighbours. Thanks for the answer!
Gichee - 24-Aug-18 @ 6:40 PM
Hi there.I would like to ask for an advise. My dog Staffie was in a fight with a another dog and unfortunately bitten the other dog.My dog was on a lead the another weren't.The owner called the police on me as s person which have a dog out of control.my dog never bite another dog before. Now I do not know what to expect. Police asked me to come for an interview.May they take my dog away? Also my dog never been in fight or out of control.. Thank
Dana Zillova - 20-Aug-18 @ 9:08 PM
Hi there, I’m in need of some advice... My neighbour has a puppy which is nearly one, she is quite a large dog & so lovely when you see her but my concern is she is left most days in the garden for up to 10 hours or more with a muzzle on...he puts the muzzle on her because she has started to eat her own faeces! I have tried to speak to him about it & he seems to think there is nothing wrong with this?! Maybe I’m in the wrong but I feel it’s to long for her to be on her own all the time especially with a muzzle on? Just wondering if there’s anyone I can contact about it? TIA
H - 20-Aug-18 @ 2:05 PM
Hello, can someone please give guidance? My son was in the park yesterday with his 11 week old cockerpoo Ralph, he was playing with another pup, a rescued Staffy that had been tied to a post broke free and attached Ralph who has puncture marks and a broken front leg ... the owner of the staffy says my son is to blame as pup was off leash and his tied up so therefore “ under control “ - the owner who is known to my son doesn’t want to pay vet costs. Any advice would be appreciated thank you
Emma - 12-Aug-18 @ 6:52 PM
@Mrconehead - you either give her the dogs back or you consider you now own them and therefore you have the responsibility :(
Olli - 7-Aug-18 @ 12:06 PM
Hi Where do we stand please , our daughter has left home and left us with 2 of her dogs. One needs vet med for the rest of his life and the other has got something wrong with her eye and needs to go back to the vet . Our daughter has stopped speaking to us now and has now left a text saying she is going to stop their insurance and not going to pay any vet bills . We are are on a limeted budet and have 2 other dogs to look after also . Can we press for any costs from her .
Mrconehead - 5-Aug-18 @ 11:03 PM
@PBP - thanks for the heads-up. How awful for you all. it's not the dogs but the owners who are at fault. Tape it, photograph it if there is a next time (I hope there won't be). The threat of mobile phone evidence may help.
Juen - 2-Aug-18 @ 2:16 PM
Just a warning to dog owners who walk their dogs in Gadebridge Park:I was there this evening with my dog Rosie a chocolate cocker spaniel and my 7 year old grandson.We saw a poorly squirrel near the river so put my dog on her lead and walked towards the car park .. as we were near the river I was going to let her off to go in the river. There was a man with a Japanese Akita who shouted to me not to let my dog go in the river as his dog would kill her ! He had the dog on a long rope. The dog saw my dog and went for me knocked me over flat on the ground and my dog jumped in front of me and was bitten on the tummy. I was on the ground .. my grandson not far but the man (50ish bald and smoking) just said because of me he dropped his cigarette ! He was hurling abuse at me .. a couple were nearby and told him to stop enough was enough kept saying his dog would kill my dog .. she was still near me as on her lead.My poor grandson was traumatised by what happened. My Rosie was bitten on the belly so went to Barton lodge who were brilliant checked her over shaved her and treated her cut and gave me lotion to put on her. So please be aware obviously not the dogs fault but the owner .. the dog should have been muzzled if he said would kill my dog. He could hardly hold on to the dog which is why his dog got near me ! So dog owners please be aware. ........ I had lots of responses about other people have encounters with the owner and dog. I reported it to the police who came to see me. I then had a letter from the police to say not enough evidence and case closed. Am not about where I stand. I have reported it to the council but not heard back.
PBP - 31-Jul-18 @ 11:01 PM
Hello! please may someone answer this question quick? So, I live in a big city and here it is very busy at day and there is also lots of cars at night. These people that live near me are always putting a dog out on its own and it goes on the road and crosses the road. It is so dangerous for it but I am not sure what to do.. Is it counted as neglect when they put their dog out on its own? Thank you! Please reply asap!
Ruby - 27-Jul-18 @ 10:17 PM
Hi, I have had various breeds over the last 40 years and was brought up on a farm with dogs, I was always told to respect animals, my concern is that I have a little old lady that can be very grumpy & doesn't like especially big dogs invading her space, she has been attacked while on her lead so therefore when dogs come bounding up to her she can sometimes gets on the defensive side, this morning while I was out on our walk in the park I meet various dog owners most of them respected that she was on the lead they either put their dog on the lead or walked the other way, one lady let her dog bound up to my dog & of course mine growled, the lady gave me a funny look & I said that my dog was on the lead & surely that if a dog is on the lead there is reason so respect for other dog owners should be considered, she did not take kindly to this & I got some verbal abuse, I was always under the impression that if the other dog was on the lead you should put your dog on lead or keep it under control, my question is if my dog had bitten hers what would have happened then.
Smiffy - 25-Jun-18 @ 11:26 AM
My dog was atacked by a smaller dog and defended himself injuring the other dog, my dog was on his lead and the other one was loose, I was bitten on the face by the other dog and required stitches. The police cane and said that my dog was under control and the other one wasn’t , can the owner of the other dog get my dog muzzled?
Mike - 10-Jun-18 @ 1:52 PM
My neighbours above in the upper floor flat have got two dogs two cats and a bed council property I don't see the dogs from one day to another I know they don't get exercised my biggest worry is the state of how the dogs are living when I do see them the little girl dog has got hole in her face which often is draining with pus but they never take them out and if they do go out there fouling on my garden not theirs I don't want to be a pain but I really don't think those dogs are being looked after properly
Sam - 4-Jun-18 @ 3:59 PM
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