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Pets and the law

Pets and the law

There are many laws on keeping animals. Some are specific to certain exotic species, some are concerned with dogs, and others relate to animals generally. Below are some of the most common laws. For more advice and information please contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Legal Advice Centre.

Animal Welfare Act 2006 – Sections 4 and 9: Unnecessary suffering

A person commits an offence if an act of his, or a failure of his to act, causes an animal to suffer. It is the duty of person responsible for animal to ensure welfare

A person commits an offence if he does not take such steps as are reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of an animal for which he is responsible are met to the extent required by good practice.

Animals Act 1971

If a dog worries livestock then it may be shot and the owner face criminal prosecution. It is the duty of owners to ensure that animals do not stray onto the road and cause injury or damage. The Road Traffic Act 1988 makes it an offence to have a dog without a lead on certain designated roads.

Dogs Act 1871

Courts can order that a dangerous dog be destroyed or the owner keep it under proper control. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 demands that owners of Pit Bull Terriers, Dogo Argentinos, Fila Brazilieros and Japanese Tosas comply with certain legal requirements. In addition, any dog dangerously out of control in a public place may be destroyed and the owner possibly given a six-month prison sentence or a maximum £5,000 fine.

Your dog is considered dangerously out of control if it:

  • injures someone
  • makes someone worried that it might injure them

A court could also decide that your dog is dangerously out of control if either of the following apply:

  • it attacks someone’s animal
  • the owner of an animal thinks they could be injured if they tried to stop your dog attacking their animal

Please contact the Police for further information.

Control of Dogs Order 1992

Every dog, while in a public place, must wear a collar displaying the owner’s name and address.

Environmental Protection Act 1990

This gives the local authority the power to seize a stray dog and to hold it for seven days. After seven days the dog can be found another home, sold or destroyed.   

Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005

This Act allows the Council to designate public areas where dogs must be kept on leads or excluded. It also gives the local authority powers to enforce dog fouling byelaws on public land. It is no defence for the owner to say they were unaware of the dog’s actions and the owner may be prosecuted or fined.