When you become an owner of a dog, you have certain responsibilities under different legislations, which are dealt with by different authorities. You have a responsibility for the welfare of your pet which falls to the RSPCA to investigate and enforce. You have a responsibility if your dog is classed as a 'dangerous dog' under the Dangerous Dog Act 1991 which is enforced by the Police.
You also have responsibilities for dog fouling, allowing your dog to stray and for allowing your dog to stray in a public place without a collar and a tag on, this falls to the Local Authority to enforce.
Tag your dog!
Thousands of dogs are lost every year and sadly most are not returned to their owners due to lack of identification on the dog. Your pet cannot speak for itself so it is vitally important to have a tag and a collar on your dog so they are reunited with their owners as quickly as possible.
The Control of Dogs Order 1992 mandates that any dog in a public place must wear a collar with the name and address (including postcode) of the owner engraved or written on it, or engraved on a tag. Your telephone number is optional but is advised.
You can be fined up to £5,000 if your dog does not wear an identification tag.
Dogs used on official duties by the armed forces, HM customs & Excise or the Police
Dogs used for sporting purposes and packs of hounds
Dogs used for the capture or destruction of vermin
Dogs used for driving or tending cattle or sheep
Guide dogs for the blind
Dogs used for emergency rescue work
There is no legal requirement for you to mircochip your dog, but many owners have taken this positive step to ensure that their pet is permanently identified. The mircochip assigned the dog a unique identification number which is held in a database against the owners contact details. The Dogs Trust factsheet on micro-chipping can be found under Related Documents.
Damage or injury
If your dog or indeed any animal under your control injures a person or animal or causes any damage to property, the owner or the person responsible for the dog at that time may be liable for damages. This would be a civil claim and not necessarily a criminal offence. If your dog is classed as a 'Dangerous Dog' under the Dangerous Dog Act 1991, you must comply with the rules for safe keeping of your dog to prevent any injury to any persons. If your dog is considered to be 'dangerously out of control' under the act, where your dog has attacked a person or is considered likely to, the police can make an order to have the dog destroyed. Please see the dangerous dogs page on this website.
Dogs in the Countryside
When on any enclosed land with sheep all dogs must be on a lead or 'under close control'. If you allow your dog to worry livestock you can be prosecuted and fined, ordered to pay compensation and even have the dog destroyed.
Worrying livestock means attacking or chasing any farm animal or poultry - there does not have to be any contact. This is outlined in the Animals Act 1971 section 9, which also states that the farmer is not liable to compensate the dog’s owner in such circumstances.
Any dog which is not a working dog can be regarded as worrying livestock merely by being off lead or not under close control in a field or enclosure where there are sheep. A landowner could shoot such a dog, if it can be proved that the action was necessary to protect livestock and that it was reported to the police within 48 hours.
On a right of way your dog does not have to be on a lead but it does have to be 'under close control'. This phrase is not defined but pretty much means that if you are in a field with animals or poultry and your dog will not always come, straight away, when called even when he's chasing things, and then stay there, he could be at risk of being seen to worry animals. So if there is any chance he might go off then the lead is the best option until you are out of the field with livestock in it.