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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Owning and caring for a dog

Dog owners have responsibilities towards their animal as well as to their neighbours and the public. Find out what these responsibilities are, where to get information about dog care and training, and how to complain about a dog and their owner.

Your responsibilities as a dog owner

By law, if you own a dog, you must look after it properly. If you don't, you could be fined and banned from owning animals.

You are responsible for:

  • making sure your dog wears a collar tag when out in a public place, so your dog can be returned to you if lost
  • cleaning up after your dog in public places
  • keeping your dog under control in a public place
  • providing a suitable environment, diet and housing
  • protecting your dog from pain, suffering, injury and disease
  • allowing your dog to exhibit normal behaviour patterns

Barking dogs

It’s normal for a dog to bark. However, constant barking or whining isn't normal dog behaviour. It can be disturbing and annoying for you and your neighbours.

You should seek professional advice for this problem – see the section below on ‘Training and looking after your dog’ for organisations to contact.

Your neighbour could make a complaint to the local council if your dog's barking is disturbing them or causing a nuisance.

Banned and dangerous dogs

There are certain types of dog that are banned in the UK. You mustn’t own, breed from, sell or give away a banned dog.

You’re breaching the law if your dog behaves dangerously out of control in a public place, even if it’s not one of the listed types.

Costs of owning a dog

It's a good idea to work out how much your dog will cost per week, so you can make sure you can afford to care for it. During your dog's lifetime (10 to 15 years), you’re likely to spend money on:

  • food 
  • vet's bills like vaccinations and neutering 
  • insurance - in case it's involved in an accident or becomes ill 
  • paying for your dog to stay in a kennel when you're away

Training and looking after your dog

Animal charities and organisations like the Kennel Club and the Dogs Trust have information about dogs and how to look after them. You'll find topics like:

  • choosing a dog that suits your lifestyle 
  • training 
  • healthcare and vaccinations

For a full list of helpful organisations, see the ‘More useful links’ section at the end of this page.

If you need help with training your dog, contact a local dog trainer or animal behaviour therapist. Find accredited practitioners on the Animal Behaviour and Training Council website. You can also check your phone book or search online for trainers in your area.

When your dog dies

If your dog dies or is put down at the vet’s, the vet will generally offer to dispose of your dog.

If you want to bury your dog in your garden, contact your local council for advice. There are certain guidelines to be met - for example, burying your dog at least 1.25 metres below ground.

If you want to bury your dog in a pet cemetery, contact the Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria.

Reporting a dog that has been run over

By law, if you run over a dog (even if it's not killed), you should stop and report the accident to the police. You must do this within 24 hours.

If you find a dead dog, contact your council. Most councils aim to collect the dog within 24 hours and will try to contact the owner.

If you think a dog is being treated cruelly

If you think a dog is being treated cruelly by its owner, contact the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). The RSPCA has a 24-hour advice line: 0300 1234 999.

If you can't look after your dog

If you have problems looking after your dog, there may be help available.

Short-term help

There may be a reason you are unable to look after your dog - for example, if you go into hospital. Your options include:

  • asking a family member, friend or neighbour to help
  • putting your dog in kennels
  • asking your local vet or council's dog warden service if they know of any local volunteers who could help
  • contacting an animal support network or charity - search online or use the phonebook

The Cinnamon Trust is a charitable organisation that has 4,500 registered volunteers across the UK. They may be able to help you find pet care if you are elderly and have to go into hospital.

If you can't look after your dog anymore

If you can't look after your dog anymore, contact a local dogs' home or animal shelter. They may take in your dog, but you will have to formally give up ownership of it.


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