These laws come from the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, and give Councils the power to make orders regarding dogs in their area.
They are called dog control orders (DCO’s). The power to make such an order was contained in Section 55(1) of the Act, and it enabled them to be made by primary or secondary authorities ie. not just district councils (primary) but also by parish councils (secondary).
Five offences may be prescribed in a DCO:-
- failing to remove dog faeces
- not keeping a dog on a lead (the length can be specified)
- not putting and keeping a dog on a lead when directed to do so by an authorised officer (again, the length can be specified)
- permitting a dog to enter land from which dogs are excluded
- taking more than a specified number of dogs onto land
The penalty for an offence is a fine of up to £1,000 OR a fixed penalty of £50 to £80 (in England – in Wales it may be higher) may be offered as an alternative.
‘Where practicable’ signs must be placed giving a summary of the DCO.
In common with the pre-existing dog-fouling regime, a DCO can only apply to land which is open to the air (on at least one side) eg. Bus shelter; and to which the public are entitled or permitted to have access. However, the restrictions in the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 do not apply to DCO’s.
The offences don’t apply to working dogs or guide dogs “where appropriate”
There are defences to the offences:-
- having a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with an order NB being unaware of a dog’s defecation, or not having a device or other suitable means of removing the faeces is not a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with the order), or
- acting with the consent of the owner or occupier of the land, or of any other person or authority which has control of the land
With effect from 20th October 2014 Councils can no longer make new Dog Control Orders and any existing ones will only remain in force for 3 years after which they become converted to Public Spaces Protection Orders. These new powers are available for Councils (though not for parish or community councils) if there are activities taking place in a public place which are having (or are likely to have) a detrimental effect on quality of life. Councils no longer have to advertise the proposal in a local newspaper although it must still be published. If a PSPO is made it must be published on the Council’s website and notices erected that the Council considers sufficient. If there is a breach the maximum Fixed Penalty Notice is £100 and if prosecuted the maximum fine is £1,000.
Under a PSPO a Council is no longer limited to the 5 different types of DCO, as long as they can justify the restriction being proposed. Eg. Both Daventry and Ashfield require owners and keepers to have appropriate means to pick up after their dog. More controversially, Barking and Dagenham Council have held a pilot project to see if requiring DNA tests would help to reduce the dog fouling problem.
Please note that the above summary only relates to the law in England and Wales. You must not rely on it as constituting legal advice and so for specific guidance on your particular doglaw issues please contact us - see our "How we can help" section for details.