As a dog owner there are many dog law legislations that have been passed over the years that still apply to dog ownership now. As a responsible dog owner its important to have a basic understanding of these laws.
During the 19th Century there was a huge rise in urban dogs, resulting in outbreaks of rabies. People who came into contact with the infected dogs were likely to be bitten due to the dogs becoming aggressive with the infection (Dog Bite Law 2023).
Dog Law 1: 1871 Dogs Act
The introduction of the 1871 Dogs Act was the first major piece of legislation addressing dog law. Section 1 of the Act dealt with stray dogs, this was later repealed by the Dogs Act 1906 and section 3 dealt with rabid dogs, this too was repealed and now has statutory protection through the Rabies Act 1974 (Dog Bite Law 2023).
Section 2 is the only part still in force and is still an effective piece of dog control legislation. It requires that the owner should be brought before a Magistrates’ court if the local authorities receive a complaint that a dog is dangerous. This could be in a private or public place, and they are satisfied that the complaint is justified. The Magistrates have the power to make any order appropriate which can include destruction, ordering the owner to have proper control, or imposing a fine (Dog Bite Law 2023).
Dog Law 2: The Dogs Act 1906
The Dogs Act (1906) amended the Dogs Act 1871 in that it defines a dog as ‘dangerous’ where it injures cattle or poultry or chases sheep. It defines ‘cattle’ as including horses, goats, mules, asses, sheep and swine. ‘Poultry’ is not defined by the Act. A definition of ‘poultry’ is provided by section 3 of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 (CPS 2021).
Dog Law 3: The Protection of Animals Act 1911
The Protection of Animals Act was passed in 1911 and covers domestic or captive animals including farm animals. The act outlined what constituted cruelty towards animals. Since 1911, there have been nine amendments to the Act.
Dog Law 4: The Protection of Livestock Act 1953
Under the Protection of Livestock Act (1953), dog owners and/or anyone else who is in control of the dog at the time of the attack will be guilty of an offence if the livestock is worried. Worrying is defined by being chased or attacked on agricultural land in such a way that it could be reasonably expected to cause injury, suffering or the loss or diminution of produce. Therefore, this covers the situation where female livestock are distressed by a dog causing abortion or loss of their offspring (Dog Bite Law 2023).
The act also permits a farmer to stop a dog and even permits shooting in certain circumstances (Dog Bite Law 2023). The farmer only has to perceive there is a threat and this is why I always recommend owners keep their dogs on a lead around livestock, no matter how good your dog’s recall is.
Dog Law 5: The Abandonment of Animals Act 1960
The Abandonment of Animals Act 1960 outlined changes in the law stating that it is an offence to abandon an animal in your care.
Dog Law 6: The Animals Act 1971
The 1971 Animals Act brought in changes that impose strict civil liability on anyone who is the keeper of an animal which attacks something. This will be the owner, or person in possession of the dog at the time of the bite. Strict liability means that the keeper will be liable regardless of whether it was their fault or not (Dog Bite Law 2023).
Dog Law 7: The Road Traffic Act 1988
The Road Traffic Act (1988) requires that dogs should be on a lead when on a designated road and abide by similar bye-laws that cover public areas. This ensures public safety is preserved as well as protecting the dog from the dangers of vehicles. If a dog is out of control and causes an accident it can result in prosecution and fines (Dog Bite Law 2023).
If a dog is involved in a road traffic accident where it runs into the road and is hit, then the driver of the car must stop and give their name and address to the person in charge of the dog. If there is no person in charge of the dog, or the driver refuses to give their details, then the owner must report this to the police as soon as possible (Dog Bite Law 2023).
The Act also states that when dogs are travelling in vehicles they must not be a nuisance or distract the driver during a journey (Dog Bite Law 2023).
Dog Law 8: Environmental Protection Act 1990
Under the Environmental Protection Act (1990) If a dog’s barking causes a ‘serious nuisance’ to neighbours, a noise abatement notice can be served which would require owners to take steps to resolve the problem (ABPC 2023). If the barking continues a prosecution could occur. Factors that may be taken into account include the volume, duration of the barking and the time of day it happens (ABPC 2023).
Dog Law 9: The Dangerous Dog Act 1991
In 1991 the controversial Dangerous Dog Act was brought in. It was made an offence to own or be in the possession of any of the following four types of dog; Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero. This unless they have been exempt by a Contingent Destruction Order made by the Court and registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs (managed by DEFRA), and the conditions of exemption are complied with (CPS 2021).
The word ‘type’ in relation to dogs has a broader meaning than ‘breed’ and holds more weight. A court could conclude that a dog was ‘of the type known as the pit bull terrier’ within the meaning of section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, so long as its characteristics substantially conformed to the standard set for the breed by the American Dog Breeders Association (ABDA) (CPS 2021).
This is often referred to as ‘breed specific legislation’, or ‘BSL’, but the law doesn’t recognise a dog’s family tree, or pedigree. UK legislation bases the decision on whether a dog is illegal on looks alone – a dog’s breed, a dog’s parents’ breeds, DNA testing and behaviour don’t come into it (The Blue Cross 2023).
Defra has issued guidance to law enforcers on what to look for when ‘typing’ a dog. Pitbull terrier types are defined using measurements based on an American breed standard for show dogs from the 1970s. Enforcers use a tape measure for this test and there hasn’t been issued any information to enforcers about how to identify the three other banned types by the UK government. (The Blue Cross 2023).
Up until an amendment in 1997, being born to look like one of these types signalled an automatic death sentence for these dogs – even if they had never shown any aggressive behaviour (Blue Cross 2023). The amendment to the law meant that dogs who were found guilty of looking like a banned type could be ‘exempted’ if they passed a court behavioural assessment and proved they could live happily and peacefully in the community (The Blue Cross 2023).
Once deemed exempt the dog is allowed to return home under certain conditions, including that they are neutered, kept on a lead and muzzled in a public place. The muzzle must be worn when travelling in a car, as this counts as a public place. If the owner moves with the dog, the local authority must be informed immediately (The Blue Cross 2023).
The Dangerous Dog act (1991) also makes it a criminal offence for allowing any dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place or place where it is not allowed. A dog can be considered dangerously out of control where it injures someone, or if the person has reasonable apprehension that it may do so. This is where it is tricky for owners as the test will be applied to persons universally, with some people having heightened fears and different levels of tolerance to dogs. A dog simply barking or jumping up at a person or child could attract criminal liability (Dog Bite Law 2023).
Dog Law 10: The Control of Dogs Order 1992
The Control of Dogs Order 1992 requires 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 a tag (Dog Bite Law 2023). This was updated in 2015 and microchipping legislation was brought in making it compulsory for all dogs to be microchipped and the dogs identity and its keeper contacts be kept on a database (CPS 2021).
Dog Law 11: The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (2005)
The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (2005) states that local authorities can make orders for offences including: not removing dog faeces, not keeping a dog on a lead, not putting and keeping a dog on a lead when directed, permitting a dog to enter land from which dogs are excluded, taking more than a specified number of dogs on to land (Dog Bite Law 2023).
The Act means that local authorities can impose fines of up to £1,000 for any breaches to a dog control order.
Dog Law 12: The Animal Welfare Act 2006
The Animal Welfare Act (2006) states that owners of pets have a duty of care to ensure they take reasonable steps in all the circumstances to meet the welfare needs of their animals to the extent required by good practice (RSPCA 2023). The act replaced the Protection of Animals Act 1911.
There are five welfare needs which must be met/provided: a suitable living environment, a suitable diet, be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns, to be housed with or apart from other animals and to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease (RSPCA 2023).
Other offences covered by the Act include keeping and training a dog for fighting, causing, being involved in or accepting a bet relating to dog fighting. Tail docking is also made an offence Dog Bite Law 2023).
Dog Law 13: Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act (2014)
Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act (2014) brought in amendments to The Dangerous Dog Act (1991) It increased maximum sentences for owners or controllers of dogs who are charged with aggravated offences. Injury to an assistance dog is now also covered (Dog Bite Law 2023).
This act also brought in more a shift in focus onto responsible dog owners in regards to assessing whether dogs are dangerous. There is also criminal liability if a dog injures someone on private property (Dog Bite Law 2023).
Dog Law 14: Electric Shock Collar Ban
The most recent dog law introduction is that the government has laid legislation which will completely ban the use of remote controlled electric shock collars in England, as of 1 February 2024. Therefore any trainers or behaviourists recommending the use of a shock collar could be prosecuted and any owners using this equipment could also be prosecuted (The Kennel Club 2023).
There are now fears that this could be another broken promise, as the anti-ban argument becomes bigger and louder, which could force decision-makers to go back on their word. If you like me feel that using electric shock collars for training is outdated and cruel. Please head over to the RSPCA and fill out a form to your local MP. Its very simple and quick to do. Follow the link below to the page.
If any of the above information has highlighted a training need you might be having such as recall, reactivity to people or dogs, separation anxiety, sheep worrying, over excitedness around people or anxiety around people coming into the home. Then get in touch at the button below.