Dog owners risk £5,000 fine or jail for breaking strict dog collar rule on walks

Owners could be hit with a unlimited fine for breaking this little-known rule about walking dogs.

Dog owners risk landing a hefty fine or possible jail time for walking their pets using a harness instead of a collar.

The law states that owners must put their name and address on their dog’s collar and this must be worn when out in public. The rule applies even if owners switch from a collar to a harness to protect their dog’s health.

Some pups, particularly small breeds, can suffer from a collar pressing against their windpipe, so wearing a harness can the safer choice. However, it is still a requirement that collars be worn by all dogs with with an identity tag listing details of their owner.

Anyone who is in breach of this rule risks landing a strict punishment, with a fine of up to £5,000.

What are the rules?

The Control of Dogs Order 1992 law for England and Scotland states that a dog must wear a collar with its owner’s name and address on it.

The tag must include a postcode, but it is not obligatory to list a phone number.

A dog must wear a collar with its owner’s name and address on it (Photo: Adobe)

Owners who fail to comply with the rules are in breach of an offence against the Animal Health Act 1981, which used to come under a fine capped “level 5”.

A level 5 fine was previously capped at £5,000, but later changed in 2015 to become unlimited.

As of 13 March 2015, all criminal penalties under the Act are now “punishable on summary conviction by a maximum fine of £5,000 or more, or expressed as being a level 5 fine, are now punishable by a fine of any amount”, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Collars with an identity tag must still be worn even if owners walk their dog using a harness (Photo: Adobe)

The change means that owners who fall foul of the law could now face an unlimited fine and/or up to six months imprisonment. However, the fine for breaching the rules are likely to be a lot lower.

In 2018, the owner of a Cocker Spaniel who was picked up without a collar near Sapcote, in East Midlands, was issued a fine of £50, with £50 costs and a £30 victim surcharge for admitting the offence.

Fines for failing to microchip dogs

As well as ensuring that pet wears a collar tag, it has been a legal requirement for dog owners to microchip their pets since 2016.

All dogs over the age of eight weeks must have a chip registered on a DEFRA approved database.

Owners who fail to meet this requirement can be fined up to £500.

This fine also applies if the owner’s details, including an address or telephone number, change but are not updated on the database.