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Pets Laws In The UK
There are a number of laws, rules, code of practice guidelines issued by the government in the UK covering the welfare rights of our beloved pets, trying to keep them safe and healthy. The laws cover England and Wales and mostly Scotland and Northern Ireland but whom may have slightly different or additional cover. We’ve listed a selection of the most usual.
What Are Banned Dog Breeds?
Numerous newspapers and media reported almost daily attacks made on the public by savage dogs during the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Thankfully there are less reported incidents after the The Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced during 1991 but remains a controversial piece of legislation.
What Is The Dangerous Dogs Act?
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, Section 1, the law was extended in 2014 where it is against the law to let your dog be dangerously out of control, including public places, in a private place and the owner’s home applying to all dogs in the UK.
It banned ‘Specially Control Dogs’ known as banned breeds.
Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 prohibits the ownership of four specific types of dog or the Dangerous Dogs (Northern Ireland) order 1983 or on any updates to that legislation.
The 4 dogs include –
- Pit Bull Terrier
- Japanese Tosa
- Dogo Argentino
- Fila Brasileiro
These dogs images are featured above. This law makes it illegal to own, sell, breed, give away or abandon any of these dog breeds. Insurers will not insure these dogs.
The UK Dangerous Dogs Act classifies dogs by “type” and not breed. The law doesn’t recognise a dog’s family tree or DNA, instead, the decision as to whether or not the dog is illegal is usually based upon physical characteristics alone. This can pose a threat to similar-looking breeds, which aren’t banned.
Pure breed Wolf Dogs are classed as Dangerous Wild Animals (DWA) in the UK so they need a licence and liability insurance. However, when you get down to third-generation (also known as F3) Wolf dogs, do not need a DWA licence so it is the same as owning any dog.
Is It The Dogs Fault?
There’s been a lot of controversy since the laws were introduced as to whether it is the dogs fault or the owners where these animals have not been properly trained. Dog attacks still take place today and dog trainers are pushing for compulsory dog training of new dog owners.
The law can be misinterpreted where a dog, for example, may escape because it was startled by an alarm set off, or fireworks, and be in a neighbour’s garden running around. The neighbour can complain and report it as a dangerous dog which then leads to court intervention and the owner having to prove it is not a dangerous dog possible having to obtain additional paperwork, an exception certificate.
Dogs that are taken in under this law by the pet charities such as pit bull terriers are put to sleep according to the legislation and not re-homed. Read more the governments information ‘Controlling your dog in public.’
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Do Pets Have To Wear ID Tags?
Before you step outside with your dog, your dog must be wearing it’s ID tag and collar. That has been a legal requirement since The Control of Dogs Order 1992 and needs to be worn on the pet’s collar or an ID tag before stepping outside of the home.
The ID should be engraved with information that can help anyone finding a lost dog to repatriate it quickly with the owner, including the name and address (including postcode) of the owner and telephone number is optional (but advisable).
This legislation became even more pertinent when in 2016 compulsory microchipping of dogs was introduced. The information that the dog is chipped, “I’m chipped” being engraved on their ID tags.
The fine is £5,000 if your dog does not wear an identification tag. There are several specialist websites offering a huge range of ID tags that can be personalized such as Pet-Tags.
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Keeping Your Pet Healthy And Happy
Animal Welfare Act 2006, section 9 provides owners with guidelines to the legal rights that domestic animals have.
The five welfare needs outlined by the Act are
- live in a suitable environment
- eat a suitable diet
- exhibit normal behaviour patterns
- be housed with, or apart from, other animals
- be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
Pet owners who fail to meet their pet welfare’s needs face prosecution but more importantly they can cause suffering to their pet where the responsibility falls on them in the home. Their actions could cause, for example, sickness, injury, and stress.
Pet owners can face court if their pets are not properly cared for and risk prison sentences and fines up to £20,000. The pet may be taken away from them or be banned from looking after animal and pets in the future.
Many of our animal charities work tirelessly trying to resolve these community problems caused by poorly treated animals and need constant funding to carry on their work.
The government has produced a 19 page PDF document called Code of Practice for the welfare of dogs and a 19 page PDF document called Code of Practice for the welfare of cats. Both serve as helpful leaflet to comply with the basic requirements that our most popular pets should be receiving in way of food, warmth, home environment, health and care.
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Pet Theft Reform
Amendment to animal welfare law to make pet theft a specific offence being sought.
The Proposal set before British parliament is to amend the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to make pet theft a specific offence, distinct from that of inanimate objects; and in sentencing, the courts must consider the fear, alarm or distress to the pet and owners and not monetary value presented by Dr Daniel Allen.
The Petition ran for 6 months and closed with over the 100,00 required but nearly 145,000, signatures where the UK Parliament is now obliged to consider for debate all petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures. The debate is due in more than a year’s time.
Do I Have to Microchip My Dog?
Missing pets were becoming a national problem with beautiful pets simply disappearing off our streets in their thousands.
April 6, 2016, the government bought in compulsory Microchipping laws trying to help to curb this problem, in England, Scotland and Wales (with Northern Ireland having similar but different pet laws, microchipping being required by law since 2011), by all pet owners having to compulsory microchip their dogs. Cats were excluded from this law.
Failure to comply carries a £500.00 fine.
Dogs must be microchipped by the age of eight weeks old by their breeders and any new owners are responsible for updating the microchip’s details held on computer registers.
Dogs must not leave their homes without wearing a collar and ID tag and have been microchipped by the age of 8 weeks.
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GPS Pet Trackers
Additional GPS fixed trackers by pets wearing a small device usually on their collar or special collars supplied have gained much popularity where your pet can be tracked anywhere in the world at anytime. These are particularly useful for more expensive breeds and animals or where an owner has problems with mischievous dogs disappearing whilst exercising.
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‘Tuks and Gizmo Law ‘ is currently proposed at the UK Parliament to ensure that end-of-life pet matters are tightened up after numerous failings by vets and authorities to contact the registered keepers of pets prior to euthanasia or where animals have been injured and would be disposed of without the owners knowledge.
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Who Has To Clean Up Dog Waste?
The Dog Fouling Act of 2016, places responsibility on “the person in charge of the dog” at the time of the misdemeanor.
More than 1,100 tonnes of dog waste is dropped a day and is a major problem. UK local councils are duty bound to keep public areas like parks, playgrounds and pavements clear of dog mess so impose fines on those who don’t clean up after their pet, by up to £80.00. Dedicated bins are provided for dog owners to pick up their dog’s mess and place this in the bins. In some council areas, you can be fined for forgetting to carry poo bags or pooper scoopers when out dog walking.
Whilst it is not such a physical problem in country areas, towns and cities do levy fines. It is illegal to leave dog waste in the majority of UK public places and parks, but you can avoid fines in agriculture and woodlands, rural common land, marshland and motorways areas.
Beaches are not excepted, some UK beaches are private and others run by Trusts or councils.
The few exceptions made are for those who have mobility and disabilities, working dogs such as sheepdogs and police dogs whilst on duty.
There’s a huge selection of dog poop bags including bio-degradable and fragranced, fitting every budget; purchase them from supermarkets, pet shops, general stores, online pet stores. You can report dog fouling on this website link.
What Are Public Spaces Protection Orders?
The Home Office updated its guidance 2014, and some public areas in England and Wales are covered by Public Spaces Protection Orders called for short ‘PSPOs.’
PSPOs may mean that you have to keep your dog on a lead. Put the lead on your dog when certain authoritative people ask you, stop your dog going to certain places such as farmland and beaches, limit the number of dogs you can walk, clear up mess after you and carry a poop scoop and disposable bags. These responsibilities falls on the local councils to implement.
Most council websites have details of their PSPOs with exclusions such as streets that you may not walk your dog down, for example.
Some coastal councils do not impose beach walking time zones allowing dogs to freely walk all year round.
The most noticeable improvement to regular park goers were the introduction of more stringent PSPOs where professional dog walkers cannot handle and walk more than six dogs in a park at a time with more city parks introducing council recognised arm bands that had to be worn for a fee payable to the council to allow them access to parks. This greatly helped the many public complaints of huge packs of dogs being walked at busy times spoiling times spent in the parks.
*Currently Scotland have not introduced PSPOs and Northern Ireland Local authorities use DCOs to restrict dog walkers and whether they can or can’t let their dogs of the leads.
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Do I Need To Harness My Pet In My Vehicle?
Having paid a considerable amount of money for your pet and the daily upkeep, it makes no sense to not secure your pet safely in your vehicle. However, it is not law that you must harness your pet whilst driving in your vehicle.
However, Rule 57 of the Highway Code states: “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.” according to the website ‘AskThe Police’ which also states,
‘This is not a legal requirement that is set out in legislation, and so failure to comply with this rule will not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted.’
Failure to comply with such sections of the Highway Code may still be used in evidence in any court proceedings under the Traffic Acts to establish liability” and can result in hefty fines and pet insurers not validating claims and further insurance.
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Do I Have To Stop If I Hit An Animal Or Pet?
Sadly it happens to the best of us, not just on country roads but often the chances are in built up areas where a pet may suddenly bolt across roads for no reason at all.
Whether the animal is dead or alive, you are bound by the law to stop if you hit an animal. The Road Traffic Act 1988 states that legally, you must report hitting dogs to the police, and a number of farm animals, but not cats or deer, and report the incident to the council. The government website has details.
For more information and advice about how to report such an accident and what to do with the injured or dead animal or pet, read our blog.
Fireworks – The Law
Whilst not specifically a ‘Pet Law’ fireworks became such a hazardous nuisance after the millenium that a law was introduced as to when they could be purchased and used in the UK to avoid the growing inconveniences and accidents that were occurring to pets and humans.
The Law outlines who can buy fireworks and the classification types of those fireworks and the dates when they could be purchased and used. Government website ‘Fireworks and the Law.’
A hefty fine was imposed and prison sentence for selling or using fireworks illegally.
It is estimated that more than 50% of pets suffer with anxiety problems when fireworks are launched and it is hoped that these measures help to curb those problems.
\\\ More Pet Laws
More Usual Animal Laws Include
- Animal Welfare Act 2006
- Guidance for pet owners
- Codes of practice
- The Performing Animals (Regulations) Act 1925
- The Pet Animals Act 1951 (amended 1983)
- Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963
- Riding Establishments Act 1964 and 1970
- Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999, Breeding of Dogs Act 1991, Breeding of Dogs Act 1973
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