Becoming A Dog Owner - What are my obligations legally?

by Rachel Musson

If you are thinking about becoming a dog owner for the first time - here's 6 key legal responsibilities you will have as an owner. 

Becoming a responsible dog owner is actually the law and it is our duty to be aware of all it involves. You don’t need to know the names and years, but you do need to provide what they ask of you as a dog owner. Have a peek at the guide below so you are fully prepared.

Responsible Dog Ownership – what you need to know BEFORE you commit to dog ownership

The Animal Welfare Act 2006

This is the main piece of legislation governing keeping animals in captivity within the UK.  As an owner this law places a ‘duty of care’ on you to fulfil the 5 animal needs as stated within the act otherwise you could face a number of penalties. These are:

-The need for a suitable environment: This includes suitable bedding, temperature, ventilation, cleanliness, space, stimulation, transporting your dog safely, coping in extreme weather etc.

-The need for a suitable diet: A balanced diet suitable to the breed and individual, access to constant fresh water. Also, feeding to the correct life stage, a puppy has different needs to an elderly dog. As well as what to feed them you need to be aware of what not to feed them and which may be poisonous.

-The need to be housed with or apart from other animals: Dogs are most definitely social animals that need to have contact with other dogs, animals and humans! If you can’t provide this, think twice before taking on a dog!

-To be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns: The opportunity to dig, sniff, walk, explore, groom, play – a dog must be able to do all these things. Consider how would you deal with a garden full of potholes or if your dog suffers from separation anxiety. The legal responsibility is on you to provide and manage these opportunities. Training takes time & patience and the consequences of ignoring this are undesirable behaviours!

-To be prevented from pain, suffering, injury and disease: Provide a safe environment, seek veterinary care when needed, provide necessary preventive health care such as vaccinations, flea and worm treatment, carry out first aid as well as considering the benefits of neutering your dog.

The Control of Dogs Order 1992

States that all dogs should wear a collar and tag in public. This should include your name, address and contact details. Should your dog get lost then anyone, including the dog warden, can call and reunite you quickly, phew!

The Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996

‘Bag it and bin it!’. Dogs faeces (poo) should not be left in public areas. Not only is it unpleasant but it can also cause illness. Toxocariasis is a nasty infection which can cause dizziness, nausea and even blindness & seizures. You can be fined for not picking it up.

Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953

Your dog should be under suitable control (on a lead) around livestock. If your dog were to attack or chase livestock, you could face a fine. A farmer is legally allowed to stop your dog if they feel he is causing a problem; this includes killing a dog that’s chasing or worrying livestock.

Environmental Protection Act 1990

Noise from excessive barking/ howling can become a nuisance to those who live around you and can be reported to the local council who may get in touch with you.

The Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015

Any dog over the age of eight weeks is required to be microchipped. Once microchipped you enter your/ your dog’s details onto a database so if your dog got lost, they could be scanned, the database checked and then someone can contact you. Puppies should be bought already microchipped by the breeder.

The average age of a dog is 12 years so before going to view and fall in love with a fluffy pup (& let’s face it you will), ask yourself if you can provide all this for your dog before making the lengthy commitment.

If the answer is yes then, congratulations! You are in for the most loyal and wonderful companionship you could ever imagine.

Welcome to the wonderful world of dogs- enjoy every lick, sniff and poop

for the journey is wonderful

Rachel Musson

Tell me more!

If you’ve enjoyed todays topic see below for further information:

Responsible dog ownership:

DEFRA Codes of Practice for Dogs:

Dog fouling:

Dogs & Livestock:


Dogs & The Law: