Owning a dog can be a very rewarding experience and dogs make excellent companion animals. However, it is important that people fully understand the implications and responsibilities of dog ownership prior to making a commitment.
Main Considerations When Buying a Dog
Perhaps the most important consideration is the breed of dog you choose. Almost all puppies are cute and playful, but fully-grown dogs vary greatly in size, look, and temperament based on their breed. When considering a particular breed you should research it fully to determine how large it will grow, what behavioural traits can be expected, and whether it has any special requirements or known health problems. Also, consider how much exercise and stimulation the dog will require. For example, a Collie will need longer and more frequent exercise than a Pug. Try to talk to others, such as breed rescues, local vets, and other dog owners about the breed you are considering. The more you can learn about your future dog, the better informed your decision will be.
Whether you get a puppy, pedigree, crossbreed, rescue, or adult dog, finding the right dog for your lifestyle is important. It is essential for both the dog and owners long-term happiness that your lifestyle is compatible with the requirements of your dog. Some dog breeds require a far greater commitment from owners than others. Do your research before getting a dog to avoid future complications and disappointment.
Always try to source your new dog from a reputable person, breeder, or organisation. When purchasing a puppy, try to meet the mother (dam) as she will give you a good indication as to how your new puppy will turn out when fully developed.
Other Considerations When Buying a Dog
It is vitally important that you do your research, buy your dog from a reputable source, and fully consider the implications of dog breed. Other considerations include:
- Can you afford to buy the dog you want?
- Can you afford the ongoing costs associated with owning a dog (food, vet fees, insurance equipment, etc)?
- Can you afford any unexpected vet bills (accidents happen)?
- Can you afford to have your dog vaccinated and micro-chipped?
- Is your home and garden big enough for a dog?
- Will there be someone at home for the dog? Dogs are companion animals and do not like to be left alone for long periods.
- Do you have the time to exercise the dog daily?
- Do you have the time to groom, train, and generally care for the dog?
- What will you do with your dog if you wish to go on holiday or away for the weekend?
- Can you afford kennelling costs?
- Can you make all of these commitments for the entire life of the dog? – The average lifespan of a dog is 12 years.
Legislation Pertaining to Dog Ownership
In the UK, numerous pieces of legislation relate to dogs and dog ownership. Responsible dog owners should be aware of such legislation and their broad implications. The following are some of the legislative controls in place to tackle well-known dog related problems.
Stray Dogs: Environmental Protection Act 1990 (Sections 149-150)
The law defines a stray as a dog in a public place that is not under the charge of a keeper. An Authorised Officer has the right to uplift any animal he suspects to be a stray. Straying dogs are a problem for the following reasons:
- The dog can cause injury to itself
- The dog may act aggressively towards members of the public
- The dog can cause road traffic accidents
- The dog might worry, chase, or attack livestock
- Straying dogs contribute to dog fouling problems
Dog Barking: Environmental Protection Act 1990 & Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003
Excessive and continuous dog barking can cause a lot of ill feeling between neighbours and often leads to intervention from local Authorised Officers. Dog barking is defined as noise caused by continual barking from a dog(s). If the noise is so loud, frequent, and prolonged as to interfere with the normal activities of an occupier, then there are sufficient grounds for complaint. Common examples of nuisance barking are: dogs that bark every time they hear a noise; dogs that bark long after the initial trigger has gone; and dogs whose barking is not under control.
There are many reasons why dogs might bark. It is important to understand these when trying to resolve the barking problem. Common causes are:
- Bored or frustrated
- Attention Seeking
- Area the dog is in is too small
- Defending territory
- Dog gets enjoyment from barking
- Medical Problems
Dog Fouling: Dog Fouling (Scotland) Act 2003
It is an offence for any person who is in charge of a dog not to immediately remove any excrement and dispose of it appropriately. Excrement should be picked up and disposed of in a responsible manner by either depositing it in the nearest dog waste bin, litterbin, or in your domestic waste at home.
Collar/Tag: Control of Dogs Order 1992
When in public, every dog must wear a collar with the name and address of the dog owner inscribed on it or on a tag attached to the collar.
Out Of Control Dogs: Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010
Any dog, regardless of its breed, can cause fear and alarm - or even serious injury - if its behaviour is ‘out of control’. A Dog Control Notice (DCN) may be issued to dog owners whose dog has been found to be out of control. A DCN outlines the measures the owner must take to ensure the dog is controlled in a manner that prevents further incidents.
Aggressive Dogs: Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 & The Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 Act introduced strict controls on types of dogs that were bred for fighting (the Pit Bull Terrier, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Braziliero). Following the introduction of the Act, there was a period where owners of these types of dogs could apply for their dog to be registered in the "Index of Exempted Dogs". If successfully put on the Index, the dog must be kept in compliance with the strict requirements of the Act, meaning the owner had to:
- To obtain a certificate to enable them to retain such a dog;
- Have the dog neutered or spayed;
- Ensure the dog is permanently identified with a tattoo and microchip (electronic transponder);
- Maintain insurance against their dog injuring third parties;
- Keep the dog muzzled and on a lead in public places; and
- Ensure a person under the age of 16 is not left in charge of the dog.
From 1st December 1991 until 1997, any person owning such a dog that was not recorded on the Index was committing a criminal offence and was liable for prosecution. However, in 1997 the Act was amended to give the court a degree of discretion in sentencing. The law no longer requires the automatic destruction of such a dog. Nevertheless, this option is available to the courts.
Section 10 of the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 amends the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 by extending the offence contained in section 3 of the 1991 Act. In doing so, it is a criminal offence to allow any dog to be dangerously out of control in any place. The implications are that any owner who does not have their dog under control - regardless of breed or place - may face prosecution and a criminal record.
Other Legislative Measures
Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982
This Act makes it an offence for any person to allow any creature, including a dog, to cause injury or danger to any other person who is in a public place or to give that person reasonable cause for alarm or annoyance.
Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 & Animals (Scotland) Act 1987
These Acts make it an offence if your dog attacks livestock or chases livestock in such a way as may reasonably be expected to cause injury or suffering to the livestock or, in the case of females, abortion, or loss of or diminution in their produce.
Animal Health & Welfare Act 2006
This Act makes owners and keepers responsible for ensuring that the welfare needs of their animals are being met. These include the need:
- For a suitable environment (place to live)
- For a suitable diet
- To exhibit normal behaviour patterns
- To be housed with, or apart from, other animals (if applicable)
- To be protected from pain, injury, suffering and disease
The Licensing of Animal Dealers (Young Cats and Dogs) Scotland Reg 2009
These regulations require persons selling young dogs or cats (less than 84 days old) to be licensed to do so by the Local Authority.
Animal Boarding Establishment Act 1974
This Act requires that a licence be obtained from the Local Authority for any premise that is providing accommodation for dogs.
Breeding of Dogs Act 1991 & 1973
These Acts require a licence to be obtained from the Local Authority by any person who is breeding dogs for sale.
As you can see, there are a lot of legislative controls to safeguard the well-being of dogs and to protect the public from anti-social behaviour. The Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010, in particular, affords a lot of new powers to authorised officers to take action against irresponsible dog owners. As a responsible dog owner you should be aware of the legislation and the requirements it places on you to care for and control your dog. Irresponsible dog owners can increasingly expect intervention from their Local Authority and may face having their dog taken away from them or a criminal record.