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Dog ownership

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There are approximately 8 million dogs in the UK. It is the responsibility of dog owners to ensure their dogs are under control at all times.

Incidents involving dangerous dogs are on the rise. Eight children and six adults have been killed in dog attacks since 2005. Five of the victims were children under the age of four years.

Current legislation does not protect children in their homes or people who have to visit private properties such as healthcare, postal and professional utility workers.

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Actions: Tackling irresponsible dog ownership

Following a consultation in April 2012, we intend to introduce a number of measures to encourage more responsible behaviour and deal with consequences that irresponsible dog ownership has on everyone else.

The main measures are:

Microchipping your dog

All dogs will need to be microchipped by 6 April 2016. This will allow people and small businesses, such as breeders, to adapt to the new requirement. The legislative mechanism to introduce this measure will be by regulations under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

From that date owners will need to have their dog microchipped and registered on one of the authorised commercial databases available; owners will have to register the details of any new owner before they sell or give the dog away. Any owner will have to keep their contact details up to date on the microchip databases.

  • Microchipping (Dogs Trust website) – Information on:
    • What is a microchip?
    • Where do I get a microchip?
    • How much will it cost? The Dogs Trust currently offers free microchipping
  • Information on how to get your dog microchipped for free:

Defra is working with database providers and microchip suppliers to ensure minimum standards of service for commercial databases and standards of microchips, and that there is updated implantation guidance and training available as well as a one-stop enquiry point for microchipped lost and found dogs.

Extending existing legislation

Defra is working closely with the Home Office and other authorities to:

  • Extend the criminal offence of allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control so that it applies to all places, including the dog owner’s property.
  • Introduce new powers to help frontline professionals tackle anti-social behaviour involving dogs. The measures proposed in the draft Anti-Social Behaviour Bill published on 13 December 2012 will provide a set of flexible, effective tools and powers to enable police and local authorities to tackle a wide range of anti-social behaviour including dog-related incidents.

In addition, there are two other measures connected with prohibited type dogs:

  • Allowing police discretion over whether to seize a suspected prohibited type dog.  Rather than simply seizing the dog until its fate is decided by a court, the police will have discretion to release a suspected prohibited dog where they are completely satisfied that it does not pose a risk to the public and is in the care of a responsible owner. They will be allowed to put extra restrictions on the owner e.g. requiring the dog to be muzzled and on a lead when in public.
  • To increase the fee payable by the owner for placing a prohibited dog on the Index of Exempted Dogs to £77 plus VAT, to better reflect the costs involved in administering these dogs for their lifetime and thereby reduce the burden on the taxpayer.

Further information on dangerous dogs.


There was an overwhelming response to the April 2012 consultation, with over 27,000 responses. The responses show there is overwhelming and increased support, some 96% of respondents, for some form of compulsory microchipping of all dogs.

There are benefits for both dog and owner. Microchipping makes a clear link between a dog and its owner. Over 100,000 dogs either stray, are lost or stolen each year with many having to be kept in kennels before being re-homed. Having a microchip means they can be reunited quickly with their owners, reducing the stress for dog and owner alike. It will also lead to substantial savings for local authorities and welfare charities who spend some £57 million a year on kennelling costs and mean fewer dogs are destroyed.

We have listened to the views of those who responded to the consultation particularly on the question of practicality for owners and those dealing with stray or lost dogs. We agree that the benefits of microchipping all dogs is more immediate than if the requirement was restricted to just puppies.  The 10–12 year delay before all dogs would be microchipped is considered too long to wait to get the benefits and the police and others did not feel it was practical to have some dogs chipped and others not.

Further information

Page last modified: 13 February 2013

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