The dog law seminar was 3 hours long so it's stuffed full of information that I'm not going to try to reproduce here - I'd recommend going to one of the seminars (call Doglaw ltd on 01227 469603) or using Trevor Cooper's website & Facebook page to find out more.
The key points that I came away with were:
1. Make sure you have third party liability insurance
Regardless of how well-behaved your dog is, accidents can happen, it's not just about bites. If your dog causes a road accident, for example, or knocks someone over accidentally and they are injured, you may well be liable. Some pet health insurance policies include this cover but if yours doesn't (or if you don't have pet health insurance) then you could join the Dogs Trust - £25 a year membership includes liability insurance as well as giving you - and the dogs they are caring for - other benefits.
2. Make sure your dog has your details on them!
The law already requires all dogs to wear a collar, when they are out, with YOUR name and address on it (phone number too is even better).
From 6th April 2016 all dogs will have to have a microchip too. The collar & tag & microchipping are a really quick way to ensure that you get your dog back if they should stray or go missing.
3. Be aware of existing laws & new laws coming in
- Happily, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 puts a positive duty of care on people to look after their dog and not to cause unnecessary suffering either through something they do or something they fail to do. There is a Code of Practice that was recommended as useful to give to first-time dog owners, available at Welfare of Dogs.
- The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill proposes amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
- 'Dangerous dogs/ a dog dangerously out of control' has a much wider definition than you might think and penalties on owners, or the person in charge of a dog at the time they cause injury, are already much more serious than they used to be.
- On a related but different theme, the identification of 'Pit-bull type' dogs, which are banned as dangerous under the DDA 1991, is quite subjective and one expert opinion will differ from another on whether or not a dog is a pit bull type or not. The individual character of the dog is irrelevant under the law. There is no DNA or other conclusive test and people should be aware that their dog can be seized by the police if they think it might be a pit-bull type, the dog may then be held until the case goes to court, which may take many months or even longer.
and finally just a quick word on...
The Government intention is that Dog Control Orders are to be replaced by 'Public Spaces Protection Orders' next spring (under the new bill mentioned above). Never heard of 'PSPO's? Neither had I! They are concerned with the behaviour of people as well as the behaviour of dogs and are less specific than Dog Control Orders (DCOs). Once the guidance notes to the PSPOs are available it should be clearer how the PSPOs are expected to be used in relation to dogs. Local authorities will have powers to bring in 'PSPO's on public land to deal with activities that are detrimental to people's quality of life. Unlike DCOs they will have to be renewed every 3 years, but the local consultation process will be 'lighter touch ', so there may be less publicity about them.
If you haven't heard of DCOs before, check them out on the dog law website - there are a number in place in Dorset. Anti-fouling DCOs are more or less universally thought to be a good thing, acting (like a byelaw) to enable fines to be imposed for not picking up. Other DCOs may be more controversial, such as those excluding dogs or restricting them to lead only, though again these may be more widely accepted where for example they relate to playgrounds, or where there is good alternative provision where dogs can go in the same area.
www.doglaw.co.uk dog law facebook page.