There are rules to follow when walking your dog, not only from a legal point of view, but also regarding manners and etiquette (which we will cover later)
As a responsible dog owner you should know about laws, rights and responsibilities. This is necessary in order to protect you, your dog and those around you.
Incidents involving dog injuries, fights, damage to members of the public and/or their property are sadly quite common.
Without a proper understanding of the law, and more importantly adequate insurance cover, many dog owners have faced huge legal bills, not to mention trauma and distress caused when things go wrong.
The Kennel Club have a very useful page of information with many of the current legislation in place regarding dog law. Those most applicable to your daily dog walk are listed below.
Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953
It is against the law to allow a dog to worry livestock on farmland. If a farmer catches a dog worrying his livestock, he has the right to stop the dog – even if that means shooting it.
This act is sadly coming into play more and more often, or perhaps we just hear about it more via social media.
You may think your dog won't cause any harm, but that is irrelevant. They must always be on leash near livestock. Sheep can abort lambs just with the stress of being chased. Your cute furry friend may never have seen sheep, but the sight of them running can trigger his chase instinct easily.
Perhaps you aren't sure if there is livestock in the field? If so keep the leash on. This is the only 100% guaranteed way to keep you safe.
The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005
This enables local authorities to implement dog control orders. Did you know you can be fined up to £1000 if you fail to pick up your dogs poo? This Act also comes into play if you fail to keep a dog on a lead when asked to do so (via sign or person) or allow a dog to enter land from which dogs are excluded.
Make sure you carry more than enough poo bags with you and pay close attention to any signs that
may prohibit dogs or request that dogs are kept on the leash.
The Control of Dogs Order 1992
This order states that any dog in a public place must wear a collar with the name and address of the owner engraved or written upon it, or alternatively on a tag. Your telephone number is optional but advisable. You can be fined up to £5,000 if your dog does not wear an identification tag.
We can't imagine taking our dogs anywhere without the necessary ID tags. If they get lost a tag with a number on can mean they are returned quickly.
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991
It is a criminal offence to allow a dog to be “dangerously out of control” in a public place, a place it is not permitted to be and some other areas. This does not mean that your dog is classed as a dangerous breed but can be something as simple as your dog chasing, barking at or jumping up at a person or child. This could lead to complaints or even litigation, so you must make sure your dog is under control at all times. If your dog injures a person, it may be seized or even destroyed by the police and your penalty may even include a prison sentence!
It may be that you don't mind your dog jumping up, or enjoy seeing him have a good run around but remember other people share public places. What if they are scared of dogs? Does your dog have adequate training to ensure he is not a menace?
The Road Traffic Act 1988
It is an offence to have a dog on a designated road without it being held on a lead. 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. If your dog is found to have been the cause of a road traffic accident you may be liable to prosecution under the Animals Act 1971.
It is unlikley that any of our readers would risk their pets by allowing them to be loose near traffic, but its worth noting, that no matter how well they walk to heel, you cant be prepared for every situation. Dogs may become spooked by a noise or give chase something you hadn't seen. Either way, the law states 'on leash on roads'
Responsibility for your dog lies with you. Be vigilant at all times, train your dog to listen to you and seek suitable public liability insurance to protect you in the event of an incident.