Dogs and the law.
Basic requirements for all dogs.
The Animals Act 1971 makes a “keeper” of a dog strictly liable for damage caused by the dog in certain circumstances. A person is a “keeper” of a dog if they own it or have it in their possession. In the case of a child less than 16 owning or having a dog in their possession the head of that child’s household may be deemed to be the keeper. That person remains the keeper until someone else fitting the qualifications succeeds them as a keeper. The Animals Act is very complicated and much is down to definition and case law. The best course of action is to ensure you have full control over your dog at all times and to question the competence of anyone you may entrust to look after your dog even for a short period of time. We also strongly recommend you ensure you take out third party liability cover as a precaution. A few moments thought could save a lot of heartache and expense!
The Control of Dogs Order 1992 requires most dogs to have a collar with the name and address of the owner inscribed on it, or a tag/disc. While many microchip or tattoo their dogs, these in themselves do not make you exempt from the Control of Dogs Order and a disc/tag must still be used. It is “good practice” to check your dogs collar and tag/disc for signs of wear and tear and to replace as needed.
If a collar is not worn then the dog may be seized and treated as a stray dog. The owner or person in charge of the dog at that time could be prosecuted and fined.
The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 places responsibility for stray dogs solely with Local Authorities where previously both Local Authorities and the Police had responsibility. Police now generally only deal with “Dangerous Dogs” and dogs worrying livestock. Each Authority must appoint someone to carry out the duties of a Dog Warden. The Wardens job is to seize any dog he believes to be a stray dog. Once seized the Dog Warden must notify the owner and allow 7 full days for that owner to reclaim their dog. Clearly if a dog has no form of identification the warden is unable to notify the owner stressing the importance of a readable tag/disc. An owner is only entitled to reclaim his dog once he has paid a £25 fee plus any expenses (normally each days kennelling fees).
Once a dog has gone unclaimed for 7 full days the Dog Warden service may sell or give the dog to a suitable person or place within a rescue organisation or have the dog destroyed. Dog Wardens must keep a register of all dogs seized including important details such as a description of the dog, where the dog was found, when and any form of identification and you have the right to view the register free of charge.
If a person finds a dog they must report it to the dog warden. The dog warden must make a note of the dog’s details (as above), attempt to contact the dog’s owner and list the dog on the register. If the finder then wants to keep the dog and the dog warden is satisfied that the person is a suitable owner for the dog then the dog warden may allow the person to keep it however the finder must keep the dog for at least 28 days. If the finder disposes of the dog in that time period they could be liable for prosecution. If the finder of a dog does not want to keep the dog then the Dog Warden will seize the dog and the same principles apply with the “seven day rule”.
If as an owner you lose a dog you should contact your local authority with details immediately. It is also a good idea to contact the police; local vets and rescue centres too. Placing adverts in local shops and on missing dog websites can help alert others to the fact. Please note however that it is illegal to place an advert for the return of a stolen or lost dogs stating, “no questions asked” or implying the person will be free from prosecution.
The Road Traffic Act 1988 covers dogs involved in road traffic accidents and also makes it an offence for a dog to be offlead on a designated road. Road traffic accident does not include dogs travelling in a car that is involved in an accident or accidents involving vehicles that are not intended or adapted for use on roads. However if a dog runs into the road and is hit or causes an accident there are a number of steps that must be taken. Firstly the driver of the vehicle must stop and the owner or person in charge of the dog can ask the driver to supply their name and address. If the driver is not the owner of the vehicle then he must supply the owner’s details if requested. If a driver refuses or fails to stop and give details they must report it as soon as possible, at least within 24 hours. Failure to do so could lead to prosecution of the driver unless the magistrates believe the driver was unaware of the accident.
The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 gives local authorities in England and Wales the power to issue Dog Control Orders. These orders can restrict where you walks a dog on and off lead, how many dogs you can walk at one given time and makes it an offence not to clean up after your dog.
Failure to follow a control order can mean a fine of up to £1000. It is important you are aware of what orders apply to which pieces of land as ignorance is not a defence in law!
The Town Police Clauses Act (outside London) and Metropolitan Police Act (London) make it an offence to allow an unmuzzled, ferocious dog to be left at large, or for a person to set on or to urge any dog attack, worry or put in fear any person or animal in the street.
The Guard Dogs Act makes it an offence for a person to use or permit the use of a guard dog at any premises unless a person (handler) who is capable of controlling the dog is present on the premises. The dog must be under the control of the handler at all times except when it is secured so it is not able to go freely around the premises. Anyone with a guard dog must display a notice at each entrance of the premises stating that a guard dog is on the premises.
While every care has been taken to ensure the information above is correct it must be noted that the contents of this document are for information only and not to be treated as an extensive guide. If you find yourself directly affected by any legislation you must seek experienced legal representation immediately. Check with your solicitor on the level of experience they have and the success rate they have achieved. If you need help finding suitable legal representation please contact us. Until legal representation has been secured do not sign anything you are unsure of. It is also worth remembering that no one other than yourself or a court of law can order the destruction of your dog and that a court generally only issues destruction orders in extreme circumstances. Information given is for England and Wales only. Legislation in Scotland and N. Ireland may differ and will be included in due course.