Get the facts
Becoming a dog owner
There are approximately 10 million dogs kept in the UK and owning or caring for a dog can be great fun and very rewarding and a positive member of any household. Dogs have complex welfare needs and looking after them can be challenging so you need to think carefully about whether you can do it properly. There is no one 'perfect' way to care for all dogs because every dog and every situation is different. It is up to you how you look after your dog, but you must take reasonable steps to ensure that you meet all your dog's needs. Before getting a dog, you should always think about
- Money - caring for a dog can be expensive, can you (or your family) afford the veterinary treatment it may need over its life? Each year dogs need to be vaccinated against diseases and they should be snipped/spayed to prevent unwanted litters of puppies. You can get help from some animal charities for veterinary treatment.
- Time - do you (or your family) have the time to care for the dog properly? Can you exercise him each day and train him to be well-socialised with other people and animals? Dogs need to be fed, groomed and looked-after properly otherwise they could suffer.
- Home - is your home environment right for a dog? Do you have the space and are other people living with you happy for you to have a dog?
- Commitment - dogs can live for a long time and while they can be cute as puppies they can be hard work. Dogs rely on they owners to look after them. Will you still want a dog when he is 5 or even 10 years old?
For more information about how to be a responsible dog owner see the RSPCA’s website. To find out more about animal welfare or for information on adopting a rescue dog visit the following charities websites:
Unfortunately some dogs are owned because of the image they project to others or the ‘status’ their owners may believe the dog gives them. Dogs as status symbols has traditionally been associated with bull breeds or large powerful dogs, but also applies to designer breeds such as ‘handbag dogs’. You should own a dog for the right reasons and not just because of what it looks like or the status it may give you otherwise that dog could be put at risk and suffer.
Equally some people even encourage dogs to be aggressive by mistreating them. This is unfair and cruel to the dog as well as extremely dangerous as the dog could end up biting anyone - including the owner, members of the public, other people’s pets or even a child.
Some dogs can become aggressive and bite other people or animals. Any dog can become dangerous in the wrong hands. That is why it is very important to ensure your dog is properly socialised with people and animals from a young age as well as trained and cared for, to keep it safe.
Under the law any dog (of any breed or type) can be considered dangerous in any place if it is not kept under control. The dog doesn’t have to bite anyone, it could just show aggressive behaviour that makes someone feel in fear for their safety.
For more information you can read section three of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 relating to Dogs Dangerously Out Of Control.
In these cases, the police may prosecute and the penalties can be very severe with up to 14 years in prison if a dog kills someone. If you have been a victim of a dog dangerously out of control or maybe you know someone who has, there's plenty of help and support available.
The UK has a law which banned certain breeds or ‘types’ of dogs. This is called ‘breed specific legislation’ and it makes it illegal to own, breed, sell or give away the following types of dog:
- Pit Bull Terrier
- Japanese Tosa
- Dogo Argentino
- Fila Brasileiro
Illegal possession of one of these dogs can result in a fine of up to £5,000 and/or six months' in prison and the police can, and do, prosecute.
For more information you can read section one of the Dangerous Dog Act 1991 on Prohibited Dogs.
If you believe that the puppy you bought may have grown into a pit bull terrier, don’t panic. If the dog is friendly and well socialised, the Met police’s Status Dogs Unit may be able to help you apply for what is known as an ‘exemption’. As long as your dog is not a danger to the public, and you can show you are a responsible dog owner, this simple court procedure will enable you to keep your much loved pet legally, as long as you comply with certain conditions, such as keeping your dog on a lead and muzzled in public..
- Dangerous dogs and the law
- More help and advice about dangerous dogs
- Have you been attacked or threatened by a person with a dangerous dog?
- Has your friend been attacked or threatened by a person with a dangerous dog?
- Are you being pressured by friends to get a dangerous or illegal dog?