Sophie Hamilton Senior Associate
How to be a responsible dog owner
In 2021, it was estimated that around 12.5 million dogs are being kept as pets in the UK, a significant jump from the previous year. The popular explanation for the sudden increase is the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns, which forced people to stay at home. Indeed, more than 3 million UK households are thought to have bought a pet during the pandemic so there could be some truth in this idea.
Whilst it is lovely that more people are enjoying a pet, it cannot be overlooked that dog ownership comes with significant responsibility, both legal and moral. Unfortunately, new and inexperienced dog owners can create dangers for themselves, their pet, and those they encounter if they don’t research and prepare properly.
Dogs live on average for around 14 years. Acquiring one is a serious commitment. Dog owners must be prepared to make sacrifices to ensure their dog is well looked after and behaves safely at home and while out, and particularly around children and other pets.
According to the Royal College of Surgeons of England, even pre-pandemic figures showed NHS hospitals having an almost 5% increase in dog-related admissions between 2015 and 2018 (an average of 7,693 admissions each year). Sadly, children and under 18-year-olds, made up around 21% (4,775) of those admissions (read more here). There have also been some dreadful attacks reported in the media recently.
Our top tips for being a responsible and safe dog owner
1. Think very carefully about the type and breed of dog that would suit you and your family.
Consider the temperament of the breed, the exercise it requires, the time and resources you must give to meet its needs. A dog which needs a lot of exercise may become unhappy and aggressive if kept indoors for lengthy periods.
2. Some breeds of dog are prohibited or restricted by law.
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 prohibits or restricts the ownership of certain types of dogs and makes it a criminal offence to allow any dog of any breed or type to be dangerously out of control. The Animals Act 1971 makes owners financially responsible for damage caused by their dog, including for injury or death of a person.
3. Know where your puppy came from.
When buying a puppy always make sure you see the puppy at home with its mother and satisfy yourself the seller is genuine and experienced.
4. Don’t take short cuts when rehoming a dog.
If you are rehoming a dog, go to a reputable established charity or organisation and be open and honest with them about your circumstances. Home checks may seem over the top or frustrating, but they are carried out a for a reason, and by people who should be best placed to know the temperament and environment requirements of the dog in question.
5. All dogs must wear collars and tags.
The Control of Dogs Order 1992 requires dogs’ collars and tags to clearly state the owner’s name and address. It also makes sense to include your telephone number, so you can be contacted immediately if your dog is found straying. Owners can be fined for non-compliance, so keep a spare tag engraved in case your dog’s tag goes missing.
6. Keep your dog under control.
If you are walking in the countryside, or anywhere with other dogs and people, it is important to remember that chasing is normal dog behaviour. It is best to keep your dog on a short lead with their attention on you whenever there are other dogs, children, livestock or food within sight, sound or smell. You may think your dog is friendly and harmless, but you cannot always foresee how they will react to unusual situations, especially around children whose behaviour can be unpredictable.
7. Some people are genuinely fearful of dogs.
Remember that some people may have previously had frightening encounters with dogs. Even if you consider your own dog to be friendly, you should always retain sufficient control in case it does approach people who may have good reason to fear it.
8. Make sure your dog is well trained.
It is up to you to make sure your dog is well trained and socialised with other dogs and people. Focus on teaching your dog skills such as coming right away when called and being relaxed around other people and different outdoor activities. You should be prepared to keep your dog on a lead and, if necessary, muzzled where requested.
Despite taking every precaution, injuries can still occur. If you, or someone you know, has been injured by a dog, our expert team of Personal Injury (Claimant) solicitors have experience in dealing with animal injuries and can guide you through every step of your claim, so contact us today for an initial free consultation.
Please note that this article has been prepared for informational purposes only. The information above is not and should not be taken to be legal advice. You should not take action or omit to take action based on this information.