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Six laws every dog owner should know

Lorna Cowan / 31 March 2016

There are laws every dog owner should know to keep you, others and your dog safe. Break them and you could be fined or even given a prison sentence.

Well behaved dog wearing a collar
Dogs should wear an identification tag and be microchipped

Being a responsible dog owner involves much more than training your four-legged friend to sit and stay. There are laws every dog owner should know too, to keep you, others and your dog safe. Break these laws and you could be fined, prosecuted, or in some serious cases, given a prison sentence.

1. You must microchip your dog

As from April 6 2016, all dogs over eight weeks old must be microchipped and registered on an approved database, such as Petlog or Pettrac. Failure to do so could incur a £500 fine.

Microchipping involves implanting a small microchip with a unique 15-digit code under the skin of your dog – it costs around £15, but charities such as Blue Cross and Dogs Trust may do it for free. Your personal details are then stored on a database, and if your dog is found after being lost or stolen, it can be scanned and you’ll be contacted (it must also wear a dog tag).

It is your responsibility to keep your details up to date – a £500 fine may apply if details are wrong. Inform the microchip database if you get a new telephone number or email address, or if you move home. This is usually free but depends on your provider.

Read these dog theft prevention tips

2. You must keep your dog under control

If your dog is dangerously out of control – in a public place or even in a friend’s home or garden - and someone is injured, or fears the dog will attack them, then you could be fined and/or sent to prison for up to five years. Your dog may be destroyed and you could be banned from owning another dog in the future. If someone is fatally injured, the prison sentence could be increased to 14 years.

The law also stipulates that if you allow your dog to attack an assistance dog, for example a guide dog, you could be sent to prison for up to three years.

Read our 10 tips for a happy, healthy dog

3. You must never allow your dog to worry livestock

If you’re walking a dog in the countryside, keep it under control when around livestock. Farmers are permitted to shoot dogs that are worrying, or appear to be about to worry, sheep, cattle, poultry or any other farm animal. You could also be prosecuted and fined, or ordered to pay compensation if, for example, a pregnant ewe was to lose her lamb.

Swot up on the Countryside Code and don’t take any risks. If you think livestock could be in the vicinity, put your dog on a lead.

Related: how to dog-proof your home and garden

4. You must know where your dog is not allowed

You can’t just walk your dog anywhere. Certain public places, such as parks and beaches (the latter often during the summer months) are covered by Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO). As a result, you may have to keep your dog on a lead or limit the number of dogs you have with you - this applies to professional dog walkers too.

Ignore a PSPO and you could be fined £100 on the spot, or up to £1,000 if you end up in court. Local councils have a duty to put up clear signage to let you know dogs are banned from an area, but if you are in any doubt, check the council’s website.

Find out about planning a dog-friendly holiday

5. You must clean up after your dog

You can’t always stop your dog fouling in the street, but you can clean up afterwards. Ignoring dog poo can result in an on-the-spot fine. Amounts vary from council to council, but may be as much as £80. Refusing to pay a fine and ending up in court could cost you £1,000.

Know the rules of your local council, and anywhere you are visiting, by checking out their website. Be aware that some councils will also fine dog owners if they’re not in possession of a disposable bag or poop scoop when walking their dog in a public place.

Find out about Saga Pet Insurance

6. You must not own a Dangerous Dog

The Dangerous Dog Act 1991 bans you from owning a Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro, Japanese Tosa and Pit Bull Terrier, or a type of dog that looks like one of these. If a dog fits one of the descriptions, it’s the owner’s responsibility to prove that it is not a banned type of dog. The maximum fine for owning, breeding or selling a Dangerous Dog is £5,000 and/or six months’ imprisonment. The dog may also be destroyed.

Find out about dog owners and the law FAQ

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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