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Irresponsible Dog Ownership and the Law

There are a number of tools available to authorities to control the conduct of dog owners who have allowed their dogs to become out of control or become a problem or danger to the public and other animals.
This page does not cover the Dangerous Dogs Act which is a form of Breed Specific Legislation designed to make sure certain breeds of dog are banned in the UK.
This is about dogs that are out of control and may attack people or other animals or are a problem in the community because of their destructive or disrupted behaviour that their owners cannot be bothered to correct.

These tools are:
Public Space Protection Orders - Environmental Protection Act 1990 - Community Protection Notices

Owners who allow their dogs to attack or snarl at strangers, threaten visitors, delivery men or tradesmen, chase cats, damage property or aggressively attack other animals, including other dogs, can face fines of up to £2,500 and have their dog taken away and even euthanised. In some cases fines are unlimited and custodial sentences apply.

Police, council officials and social housing landlords are able to issue community protection notices to force the owners of nuisance animals to take steps to control their behaviour.
Measures include attending behavioural classes, keeping their dogs muzzled or on a leash, strengthening garden fencing, or having their animals neutered or microchipped.

The information below comes directly from the government website

It’s against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control anywhere, such as:

In a public place
In a private place, e.g. a neighbours house or garden
In the owner’s home

The law applies to all dogs.

Out of control

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.


You can get an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to 6 months (or both) if your dog is dangerously out of control. You may not be allowed to own a dog in the future and your dog may be destroyed.

If you let your dog injure someone you can be sent to prison for up to 5 years or fined (or both).
If you deliberately use your dog to injure someone you could be charged with ‘malicious wounding’.

If you allow your dog to kill someone you can be sent to prison for up to 14 years or get an unlimited fine (or both).

If you allow your dog to injure an assistance dog (e.g. a guide dog) you can be sent to prison for up to 3 years or fined (or both).

Report a dangerous or out of control dog

Anyone can report a dog and their owner to the police.
You can report a dangerous dog to your council’s dog warden service.
You can also report dog fouling to your local council.

Click here to find your local council

Public Spaces Protection Orders

Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO ) deal with a particular nuisance in a particular area that is having a detrimental effect on the quality of life for those in the local community.
It can prohibit certain things or require specific things to be done.

An example of when a PSPO may be issued could be to help keep dogs under control within a public place such as a park or in the street or any public place. It may require that the dog is kept on a lead at all times and/or the dog is only allowed in certain areas.

Some public areas in England and Wales are covered by Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) - previously called Dog Control Orders (DCOs). In public areas with PSPOs, you may have to:

Keep your dog on a lead
Put your dog on a lead if told to by a police officer, police community support officer or someone from the council
Stop your dog going to certain places - like farmland or parts of a park
Limit the number of dogs you have with you (this applies to professional dog walkers too)
Clear up after your dog

PSPOs only apply to public land.


If you ignore a PSPO, you can be fined:

£100 on the spot (a ‘Fixed Penalty Notice’)
Up to £1,000 if it goes to court.
You can’t be fined if you’re a registered blind dog owner.

PSPOs in your area

Local councils must let the public know where PSPOs are in place.
Example -
If dogs aren’t allowed in a park, there must be signs saying so.

Dog Fouling and Barking

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 it is an offence to allow your dog to become a nuisance by barking continuously or fouling a public place.


You can be given an on-the-spot fine if you don’t clean up after your dog. The amount varies from council to council.

It’s often £50 and can be as much as £80.
If you refuse to pay the fine, you can be taken to court and fined up to £1,000.
Registered blind dog owners can’t be fined.

Some councils have stricter rules on dog fouling.
They may make owners carry a poop scoop and disposable bag when they take their dogs out to a public place.


For the noise of a barking dog to count as a statutory nuisance it must do one of the following:

Unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises;
Injure health or be likely to injure health.

If the authorities agree that a statutory nuisance is happening or will happen in the future, councils must serve an abatement notice.

This requires whoever’s responsible to stop or restrict the noise.

The notice will usually be served on the person responsible but can also be served on the owner or occupier of the premises.
Enforcement of the Environmental Protection Act is the responsibility of local authorities.
(Council Environmental Health department).

The Act also prohibits any animal to be kept in such a place or manner as to be prejudicial to health or a public nuisance.

A Community Protection Notice can be issued to anyone engaged in anti social behaviour, which includes people who have dogs that are out of control and are a danger or nuisance to the public or other animals.

A Community Protection Notice (CPN ) is aimed to prevent unreasonable behaviour that is having a negative impact on the local community's quality of life.
Any person aged 16 years or over can be issued with a notice, whether it is an individual or a business, and it will require the behaviour to stop and if necessary reasonable steps to be taken to ensure it is not repeated in the future.

CPNs replace current measures including litter clearing, defacement removal and street litter control notices. Below are examples of when a CPN may be issued;

When a dog is constantly escaping through a broken fence the owner could be issued a CPN requiring that the fence be fixed to avoid further escapes.
A notice could be issued to a local shop/supermarket who are allowing litter to be deposited outside the property.
Anti social behaviour such as regularly playing loud music in a public area can be addressed with a CPN.

Police officers, local authorities and PCSOs can issue CPNs but before doing so they must consider two things;

Whether the conduct is having a detrimental effect on the community's quality of life and also, whether said conduct is considered unreasonable.

The individual must be given a written warning beforehand stating that if the behaviour doesn't cease, the notice will be issued. The notice can be appealed in the Magistrates' Court within 21 days.

Failure to comply is an offence and may result in a fine or a fixed penalty notice.

To apply for a CPN or to enquire further, you will need to contact your local policing team.
You can do this via the non-emergency 101 number or alternatively by visiting your local force's website.

For anyone interested in greater details on how the Police and Local Authorities are guided in enforcing the law, you can download two acrobat files using the links below -

Dealing with irresponsible dog ownership: Practitioners Manual.

Dealing with irresponsible dog ownership: Practitioners Manual - Annexes A-D