As dog owners, there are some pretty obvious rules about what we can or cannot do. For example, we cannot leave dog poo behind, or walk our dogs off leash in a sheep field. There are, however, some laws that aren’t as widely known, or can cause a bit of confusion amongst pet owners. The requirement for dog collars is an example of this. Read on to find out the rules behind dogs wearing identifiable collars, to avoid inadvertently picking up a nasty fine!

What are the rules?

In order to work out the nitty gritty of this collar and harness business, one must turn to a particular section of the UK laws and regulations known as the Control of Dogs Order 1992. Here, it states that all dogs, when in public space, must wear a collar tag that clearly displays the owner’s initial and surname, as well as their up-to-date address. Phone numbers are recommended but not mandatory; as long as the name and address are on the tag that is fine. 

There are certain exemptions to this law: working dogs including guide dogs, shepherding dogs and sporting dogs aren’t included in this law. This exemption will not apply to the vast majority of dog owners, however. So most pet owners will have to abide by the law and make sure their pooch is in public with a collar and tag.

What is the penalty?

The penalty is a level 5 fine which was previously capped at £5000. This has changed since 2015. Now the maximum penalty can be up to six months imprisonment, with or without an unlimited fine. This is obviously quite steep, but fortunately the fines which are actually given out will usually be much lower than this. For reference, in 2018 a Cocker spaniel in the East Midlands was picked up without a collar, landing their owner with a fine of £50 plus £30 surcharge. While it pales in comparison to the £5000, this still is certainly not a small amount. And it could be easily avoided with owners ensuring their dog is out with an appropriate collar tag!

Can I walk my dog with just a harness?

You need to make sure your dog is wearing an identifiable collar with the necessary owner information mentioned, alongside their harness. If you don’t yet have one, collars and ID tags can easily be found and purchased at a variety of pet stores, both online and at the store. A small fee and step to ensuring your casual dog walk doesn’t turn into an illegal activity! 

Furthermore, if the harness breaks for whatever reason (like your dog being startled by a loud and sudden sound), having a collar means that the tag will stay with the dog, not only keeping you within the bounds of the law but also making them easier to find if they run off. Owners who adopt from shelters may find this especially worthwhile, since some rescue pups may react strongly to stimuli.

My dog is microchipped, do they still require a collar with identification?

There can be some confusion around whether a microchipped dog still needs a collar with identification. To answer in short: yes, they do. The microchipping law came into force in 2016,. This states that all dogs in the UK by the time they’re 8 weeks old must have a microchip. The microchip contains much more detail than a collar tag would. Linked to the database, it has information about the dog, owner, as well as the breeder (if applicable). However, microchipped dogs will still require a collar with identity when out in public places. When dogs are found, the collar acts as the initial point of identification, with the microchip then acting as complementary data, in the case of the collar having accidentally fallen off.

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