Failing to keep your dog under control outside, and in private areas, can result in a large fine, a significant prison sentence, or both.
The information in this guide clarifies the rules for controlling your dog in communal areas and how Public Spaces Protection Orders work in England and Wales.
Letting a dog be 'dangerously' out of control is against the law, no matter where! Besides a dog owner's home, the rules also apply at:
UK law considers a dog as 'dangerously out of control' if it makes someone feel worried about getting injured, or it causes an actual injury.
Important: The United Kingdom bans the ownership of certain types of dogs (see below). But, the law about controlling your dog in public areas applies to all breeds of dogs.
In some cases, the courts may also consider dogs as being out of control and acting in a dangerous manner, if (either):
Farmers are allowed to kill any dog if it is 'worrying' their livestock (e.g. cattle, goats, horses, pigs, sheep).
The penalties for having a dangerous out of control dog is an unlimited fine or being sent to prison (for up to six months) - or both.
In the most severe cases, the authorities may destroy the canine and ban the person responsible from owning a dog in the future.
It can get worse:
Allowing your dog to injure another person can result in a prison sentence for a period up to five (5) years, being fined, or both. Deliberately using a dog to injure someone can result in a charge of 'malicious wounding'.
The person in charge of a dog that kills someone can be sent to prison for a period of up to fourteen (14) years, receive an unlimited fine, or both.
Important: Allowing your dog to injure an assistance dog (e.g. a guide dog) can result in a prison sentence for a period of up to three (3) years, being fined, or both.
The United Kingdom outlaws the ownership of certain dog breeds, including:
Furthermore, it is an offence to sell (or give away), breed from, or abandon any of the banned dogs. However, the characteristics and features of a dog (not only its breed name) can also determine whether it belongs with the banned types.
This is also true even if:
But, according to the law, if the banned dog is discovered at:
The next step is for a council dog expert (or the police) to determine the actual breed and whether they consider it as a danger to the public (or if it could be).
Following that, they will (either):
They will not allow you to visit your dog during the time that you are waiting for a decision from the court. But, you can choose to give up your ownership (they cannot force you to do so).
Giving up ownership means they may destroy the animal and you may not need to attend the court.
Going to court gives you an opportunity to prove your dog is not one of the banned types. But, it would be your responsibility to do so.
If you are successful, the court will order the return of your dog. Being unable to prove it (or pleading guilty), means you would be convicted of a crime.
Note: Having a banned dog is against the law in the United Kingdom. It can result in an unlimited fine, prison for up to six (6) months, or both. They would also destroy the dog.
The courts do not consider all banned dogs as a danger to the public. In this case, they may have it registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs and allow you to keep it.
Index of Exempted Dogs
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You would receive a Certificate of Exemption, which would be valid for the rest of the dog's natural life. But, the animal would need to be:
Furthermore, the owner must (by law) be at least sixteen (16) years old, have insurance against it injuring other people, and:
In England and Wales, Public Spaces Protection Orders has become the new name for the outdated Dog Control Orders (DCO). Hence, if a PSPO covers a public area, you may need to keep your dog on a lead, or.
The penalties for ignoring a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) can be a:
Informing members of the public about areas where there are PSPOs in force is one of the responsibilities of local councils. For example, they must display proper signage if dogs are not allowed in a park.
Likewise, the council must give notice (and publish it on its website) if it plans to enforce a new PSPO. Moreover, it must inform you where it will apply and where you can view an appropriate map.
Another section explains the latest advice about the 'stick and flick dog poo' method and how it is helping to clean up the countryside.
Anyone can file a report to the police about a dog and their owner. You can also report a dangerous dog to your council dog warden services department.
UK Rules for Controlling a Dog in Public Areas