In The Doghouse! The Seven Illegal Things You Could Be Doing As A Pet Owner Without Realising

FeaturesWagging Tales

A leading veterinary charity has named the top seven mistakes pet owners make – which could see them breaking the law.

PDSA vets, together with PDSA Pet Insurance, are reminding pet owners of the importance of keeping up to date with pet laws as the weather warms up. From knowing when dogs should be kept on a lead, to identifying excessive barking, the leading vet charity has identified the seven common mistakes which can see pet owners unintentionally breaking the law. 

PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing said: “Just like when you’re learning to drive, there are laws in place that must be followed but can often be forgotten due to bad habits or a lack of understanding. Now we are in spring and we start to spend more time outdoors, it’s important for pet owners to remind themselves of key rules to keep their pet on the right side of the law.


“Since the Control of Dogs Order was created in 1992, all dogs in England, Scotland and Wales have been legally obliged to wear a collar and identity tag in a public place. This tag doesn’t have to include the dog’s name, but instead must include the owner’s name and address, including a postcode, and applies to pups both on and off their lead.

“Since 2016, it has also been a legal requirement across the UK to have your dog microchipped by the time they are eight weeks old, and to keep your contact details up to date on a database that meets government standards. This makes it easier for the owner of a dog to be traced in the unfortunate event that they become separated from their pet.


“Nobody likes to see dog fouling in a public area, but sadly it’s a common problem – especially for local council. Not only is dog fouling unpleasant, but it can be dangerous too, with many health risks for livestock, wild animals and humans.

“Fines for uncollected dog mess vary between councils. Local authorities can issue an on-the-spot Fixed Penalty Notice, which can range from £50 – £100. If the fixed penalty is not paid, the owner risks being taken to court and a maximum penalty of a £1,000 fine. So next time your dog has a number two, scoop that poop – there’s no excuse.


“It’s normal behaviour for dogs to bark – just like us humans, sometimes it’s important to talk it out! Although barking is often a call for attention, many factors such as loud noises, flashing lights and even the unpredictable British weather can cause a dog to bark excessively.

“However, when this happens over a long period of time, it can become a noisy irritation to your neighbours and be seen as a ‘statutory nuisance’ in the eyes of the law. As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to find a solution to the cause of any excessive barking, which may mean talking to a behavioural specialist to identify the cause of the problem.


“Although there is no blanket law requiring dogs to be kept on a lead in all public spaces, there are certain areas where a lead is compulsory. This includes children’s play areas, sports pitches, roads, and beaches. These areas, known as Public Spaces Protection Orders, will include signs detailing any restrictions, so always familiarise yourself with these, especially if visiting a new park for the first time.

“If rules aren’t followed in these spaces, local authorities have the power to issue fines or fixed penalty notices, with the maximum fine as much as £1,000 – a costly mistake to make.


“Enjoying a walk through the countryside with your pooch is one of the great joys of becoming a dog owner – especially on a sunny spring day. But as every dog owner will know, the sight of a squirrel, sheep, or other forms of livestock can cause an immediate change in their behaviour. Animals such as chickens and sheep can become easily worried by things that threaten them and will often run away from danger when panicked.

“Between 1 March and 31 July you must have a lead on your dog over open access land, even if there is no livestock on the land. If a farmer believes your pup is a threat to their livestock, they are legally allowed to stop them, which could include killing a dog that’s chasing or worrying farm animals. This is why it’s so important to keep your dog safe and under control at all times when enjoying the countryside.


“Sometimes an excited pup can be one which makes a mess – including damage to other people’s property. If your dog, or any other animal under your control, damages property or injures another person or animal, you may be liable for damages. This even includes if your dog is hit by a car! To prevent the worst from happening, consider taking out third-party insurance so that you’re covered for those over-excitable days spent exploring.


“No matter what breed of dog you choose, any responsible pet owner must ensure they are providing everything their pet needs to meet their five welfare needs. Created in 2006, the Animal Welfare Act places a legal duty of care on owners or keepers in five key areas. These include health, behaviour, companionship, diet, and environment – ensuring pets are treated if unwell, have opportunities to behave naturally for their species, are housed with or apart from other species appropriate for their species, maintain a healthy diet, and live in a safe environment.”

The charity’s insurance partner, PDSA Pet Insurance, offers a range of policies to cover cats and dogs for accidents and illness, as well as providing access to a 24/7 veterinary helpline. Every policy sold raises funds for the charity’s life-saving veterinary work.

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