There are a lot of responsibilities that come with being a dog owner.
As well as making sure they get the right food, plenty of exercise and lots of attention, there are also things that owners must learn to avoid getting on the wrong side of the law.
While most owners know that failing to pick up their dog’s mess while out on a walk can result in a fine, there are several lesser-known rules around walking and driving with dogs which could see even the most careful owners caught out.
Here’s what every dog owner needs to know to avoid getting caught out and possibly hit with hefty fines.
The first thing that owners need to bear in mind concerns identity tags for dogs when out in public.
Failing to put a tag on your dog with your details on it could land you a fine, or even jail time.
The Control of Dogs Order 1992 law for England and Scotland says that a dog must wear a tag with their owner’s name and address on it.
This means that if dogs are caught not wearing a proper identification tag, their owners are considered guilty of an offence against the Animal Health Act of 1981.
Owners could subsequently be hit with what was formerly a level 5 fine, which was capped at a maximum of £5,000 until 2015.
However, the cap has since been scrapped, which means that anyone convicted could receive an unlimited fine or even a six-month prison sentence in the worst case scenario – although the fines handed out are likely to be much lower.
Dog owners should also be aware of the laws in their area around letting dogs walk off lead.
Although taking your dog off their lead is permitted in most UK parks, there are some spots where it’s illegal – and owners who fall foul could be fined up to £1,000.
Local authorities can issue a Public Spaces Protection Order or Dog Control Order, which means that dogs must be kept on a lead in certain spaces – or in some cases, they prevent dogs from being allowed in the area altogether.
Areas such as beaches, sport pitches and flower beds are the most common places that are off-limits to dogs, while they often have to be kept on leads near play areas and bodies of water.
Owners should keep a lookout for signs in these areas alerting them to the rules concerning their dogs.
Similarly, another little-known law about where dogs are allowed off lead is likely to catch unaware owners out. The Road Traffic Act 1998 says that it’s a criminal offence for a dog to be on a ‘designated road’ if they’re not on a lead.
To help keep both dogs and drivers safe, the law requires dogs to be kept on a lead while they’re crossing a road, and also while walking on a pavement beside a busy road to prevent them from darting out into traffic.
Even owners of the most well-behaved dogs could see themselves facing a staggering fine of up to £20,000 and six months in prison if their failure to obey the law results in a road accident, according to Select Car Leasing .
If you are driving somewhere with your dog rather than walking them, there are yet more rules to be aware of .
Failing to make sure that your pet is properly secured in your car is a breach of the Highway Code, and could see owners hit with a fine of up to £5,000 for “careless driving”.
While the code isn’t specific about where dogs should be placed in the car, it’s recommended that they sit in the backseat or boot for safety reasons.
Car dealer Peter Vardy also warns drivers against letting their dog stick their head out of the window, which could be a sign that your dog isn’t secured properly in the car – as well as distracting others on the road.
Although it’s not set out in law that dogs shouldn’t stick their head out of the window, drivers still risk being pulled over for ‘driving without due care and attention’, which could result in a fine and points on your licence.