Dogs and the Law
February 2nd, 2012 by Louise Humphreys
Posted In: Environmental Health
Recently it seems that not a week has gone by without some negative press reporting about dogs. I am one of the many dog owners in the country - a labrador in case you are interested - and believe that responsible dog ownership is key. All dog owners should have some basic undertstanding of the law relating to dogs. After all, you're not allowed to drive a vehicle without knowing the "rules of the road" so why should owning a dog be any different? With that in mind, here's a quick summary of the relevant legislation.
Dogs Act 1871
Although well over 100 years old, this Act is possibly the most effective piece of legislation relating to dog control. Proceedings under the Act are brought at the Magistrates' Court in its civil capacity and can be brought by the police, local authorities, or individual members of the public. The key requirements for bringing a complaint are for the dog to be dangerous and not kept under proper control. Importantly it doesn't matter whether the dog is in a private or public place.
If the Magistrates are satisfied that the complaint is justified they can make any order they feel appropriate to require the owner to ensure that the dog is kept under proper control and, in extreme cases, can order the dog's destruction.
Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953
This Act makes it an offence for a dog to worry (chase or attack) livestock (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses and poultry) on agricultural land. It is also an offence for a dog to be at large (i.e. not on a lead or under close control) in a field or an enclosure in which there are sheep. The owner and the person in charge of the dog, if different, can be guilty of the offence.
If your dog does worry livestock, the farmer has the right to stop your dog (even by shooting your dog in certain circumstances).
The Road Traffic Act 1988
Under s27 it is an offence to have a dog on a designated road without it being held on a lead; local authorities may have similar bye-laws covering public areas. Dogs should also not be carried in a vehicle in such a way as to distract the driver. If a dog is injured in a car accident, the driver must stop and give their details to the person in charge of the dog. If there is no person in charge of the dog, the incident must be reported to the police within 24 hours.
Dangerous Dogs Act 1989
In addition to any civil order made under the 1871 Act, the 1989 Act allows a Magistrate to disqualify an owner from having custody of a dog for any period the Court thinks fit. The 1989 Act also provides enforcement provisions for breaches of any control order imposed on an individual under the 1871 Act.
Dangerous Dogs Act 1991
S1 prohibits the ownership of certain types of dogs, except for certain exemptions. The breeds currently banned are Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosas, Dogo Argentinos and Fila Brazilieros. Prosecutions can be brought before a Court based on just the physical characteristics of the dog (i.e. what it looks like). Not only is it an offence to own such a dog, it is also an offence to breed, sell, exchange, advertise, or give any such dog.
S3 creates a criminal offence of allowing any dog (regardless of breed or size to be dangerously out of control in a public place or a place to where it is not allowed. A dog can be regarded as being dangerously out of control on any occasion where it causes fear or apprehension to a person that it may injure them. Furthermore, if that dog does injure a person then the offence is aggravated. Legal action may be taken against the owner and / or the person in charge of the dog at the time.
S5 allows for a dog in a public place to be seized by a police constable or authorised officer of a local authority if it is of a banned type or is of any type or breed that appears to be dangerously out of control at the time. A warrant would be required for the seizure of dogs on private premises.
The Control of Dogs Order 1992
This mandates that any dog in a public place must wear a collar with the name and address of the owner engraved or written on it, or engraved on a tag. Your telephone number is optional (but advisable).
The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005
Under this Act, you could be fined up to £1,000 for breaching dog control orders. Local authorities can make orders for standard offences including: failing to remove dog faeces, not keeping a dog on a lead, not putting and keeping a dog on a lead when directed to do so, permitting a dog to enter land from which dogs are excluded and taking more than a specified number of dogs on to land.
The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act also updates the law on stray dogs by transferring the responsibility for strays from the police to the local authorities. It is highly recommended that your dog is microchipped so that if your dog should stray it can be easily traced.
Animal Welfare Act 2006
The Animal Welfare Act increases and introduces new penalties to tackle acts of cruelty, neglect, mutilation, tail docking, animal fighting and the giving of pets as prizes. In addition to this it introduces a duty of care for all pet owners to provide for their animals a suitable environment, a suitable diet, the ability to exhibit normal behaviour patterns, protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease and consideration of the animal's needs to be housed with, or apart from, other animals.