Cat and dogs are paw-istively awesome but what does the law have to say about our precious pets
The battle between cats and dogs is an age old one, but which pet wins when it comes to the legal rights for pet owners and those who are fed up with other people’s nuisance pets? Are you entitled to take action against your neighbour’s noisy animals? And do pet owners have a legal responsibility to clean up after their cat or dog?
Leading legal expenses insurer DAS has asked the solicitors who give legal advice to policyholders under their legal expenses insurance policies to tackle the subject. Sarah Garner, solicitor from DAS Law, tells you what you need to know.
Is it a legal requirement for a dog to wear a collar on walks?
In short, the answer is ‘yes’. The Control of Dogs Order 1992, states that any dog in a public place must wear a collar with a tag with the name and address of the owner engraved or written on it.
Certain dogs are exempt from having to wear a collar with a tag; these include registered Guide Dogs, emergency rescue dogs and dogs that are part of the Armed Forces, HM Customs and Excise or the Police.
Under the Road Traffic Act 1988 it is considered a criminal offence for a dog to be on a public road without being on a lead. You can be fined £200 for such an offence.
If a dog bites someone or another dog, can the owner be sued or be forced to put their dog to sleep?
Dog owners have a duty of care to ensure that their animal is kept under control. If it can be argued that as a result of a dog being out of control it has caused an injury to you or another dog, the owner can face civil action as a result of the injury to the person or damage to the dog.
If a dog is known to bite others, or act in a particular way when startled, an owner will have a duty to ensure that these acts are avoided. A dog can even be deemed to be out of control whilst it remains on the lead. As well as civil action, if the matter is referred to the Magistrates Court and they determine that the dog was dangerously out of control they can make a destruction order for the dog to be put down.
I can’t enjoy my garden this summer because of the neighbour’s dog, is there anything I can do?
It may be possible to argue that your neighbour’s dog may amount to a nuisance if it is producing excessive noise, or if your neighbour fails to properly clean up after their dog creating noxious smells or attracting an excessive amount of flies. However, whilst all of the above may be an annoyance, it needs to constitute a substantial interference with your ability to enjoy your property for it to constitute a nuisance.
What are the rights around a neighbour’s cat coming and going from your garden?
Cats do not face roaming restrictions. Legislation surrounding the trespass of domestic animals is dealt with in the Animals Act 1971. The Act doesn’t apply to cats and so therefore a cat cannot illegally trespass onto a neighbour’s property. It is often expressed that a cat will have the ‘right to roam’. In most cases a cat owner will not be responsible for where a cat goes.
Can you be prosecuted if you don’t clear up faeces in your garden? If it is your neighbour’s cat can they be held responsible for clearing it up?
The law of nuisance deals with situations affecting the use and enjoyment of property. The law recognises that a cat is a free roaming animal so it would be difficult to hold the owner responsible for clearing up any faeces, in general circumstances. However if it amounts to a substantial interference with the use and enjoyment of land it may become a nuisance issue. If it becomes an excessive problem the local authority again may offer assistance.
Is it illegal to use sprays or deterrents to keep cats out of your garden?
There is a risk to any person who uses sprays or deterrents to keep animals out of their garden. If the spray or deterrent causes harm or unnecessary suffering to a cat there is risk of being held liable for a criminal offence against animal welfare for which you may be prosecuted.
It is advisable to give serious consideration to the use of any potential spray or deterrent and to ensure they are being sold legally and that they won’t cause any harm or suffering to a cat.