Control dogs

Powers that police, councils and other authorities can use to control or improve the behaviour of dogs.

Applies to England

Police, councils and other authorities can take action against a dangerous or banned dog.

Any or a combination of the following powers can also be used if a dog is causing, or is likely to cause, nuisance or harm:

Councils can also restrict what dogs can do in a public space, eg banning dogs from the area or requiring them to be on leads. This is known as a public spaces protection order.

Other ways to help improve dog behaviour can be as effective as legal action. These include educating dog owners or giving a warning to offenders.

The order or civil injunction used depends on the type, frequency and severity of the behaviour. It must only include reasonable measures for the person responsible for the dog to take.

Reasonable measures

You must only include measures that can be enforced in an order or civil injunction. These must also be reasonable for a person responsible for the dog to take.

They can include:

  • microchipping - compulsory for every dog from 6 April 2016

  • restricting where a dog can go, and when, eg by putting it on a lead

  • keeping the dog on a lead

  • muzzling the dog, eg around children

  • neutering the dog

  • fixing fences

  • installing a letter cage (to protect anyone delivering post)

  • cleaning kennels and disposing of dog waste

  • attending classes (eg to educate the dog owner or to train the dog)

  • specifying how old you have to be to look after the dog

  • with antisocial behaviour, preventing the owner from meeting named individuals with the dog

Be clear about both of the following:

  • what you want your measures to achieve
  • how long it should take for your measures to be achieved

Consult with relevant experts, e.g. a vet or a dog legislation officer (DLO), before you issue the order or civil injunction.

When measures include attending a dog-training course, the enforcer (eg police officer) should arrange the course using a suitable trainer. You can find a trainer from the Animal Behaviour Training Council or the Kennel Club. You can ask the trainer to confirm that the course has been attended, eg in writing.

Community protection notice

A community protection notice (CPN) orders the person responsible for the dog (usually the dog owner) to stop or control its behaviour.

A CPN is usually issued to deal with minor incidents, including when a dog:

  • strays

  • causes alarm

  • damages property

  • shows it’s capable of aggression

A CPN orders the responsible person to:

  • stop doing something, eg letting the dog into children’s play areas

  • do specified things, eg muzzling the dog

  • take reasonable steps to get specific results, eg attending dog-training classes

A CPN can last for as long as the authority issuing it believes is necessary (eg, 2 weeks to fix a fence, or several months to allow someone to attend a training course).

Who can issue a CPN

A CPN can be issued by a:

  • police officer

  • police community support officer (PCSO) who’s been authorised to issue it

  • council officer

  • registered social landlord (RSL) approved by the council

You can only issue a CPN if the dog’s behaviour is persistent, unreasonable and negatively affects the quality of life of people or animals.

You must issue a written warning before you can issue a CPN.

Written warning before a CPN

The written warning doesn’t have to follow a specific format but it must state:

  • the behaviour that’s led to this warning being issued

  • a reasonable time period in which the behaviour must stop

  • what happens if they’re issued with a CPN and the penalties for not following a CPN

‘Reasonable time’ depends on the specific circumstances, for example:

  • 10 minutes may be reasonable to put a lead on a dog that’s out of control in a park

  • 1 week may be reasonable for fixing a fence that a dog keeps escaping through.

You or the person responsible for the dog may need time to get advice from experts on animal welfare or dog law, eg a vet or DLO, on complying with the warning.

Before issuing a CPN

You must inform anyone else who needs to know about the CPN, before you issue it. These parties can include:

  • the council

  • the police

  • animal welfare organisations

  • (if relevant) the landlord of the person you’re issuing it to

You should also inform the person who first reported the dog’s behaviour.

Who you can issue a CPN to

A CPN can be issued to:

  • someone aged 16 or over

  • an organisation or business

If a child under 16 is responsible for the dog, the CPN can be issued to the parent or guardian.

A CPN can be issued to more than one person if more than one person is responsible for the dog.

Penalties for breaking a CPN

If someone doesn’t comply with a CPN, they can be given an on-the-spot fine of £100 (a ‘fixed penalty notice’). They could also be prosecuted in a magistrate’s court and be:

  • fined - up to £2,500 for individuals, up to £20,000 for a body

  • forced to pay costs, eg money a council spent to fix a fence that allowed a dog to escape

The court can issue an order for items to be seized and disposed of (a ‘forfeiture notice’) within 14 days. This can include an order for a dog to be taken away from its owner or destroyed. A dog should only be removed or destroyed if there is no other option to keep animals or the public safe.

CPN appeals

The person responsible for the dog can appeal within 21 days of receiving a CPN, if they believe any of its measures are unreasonable (eg they could harm the dog or are too expensive).

If someone wants to appeal against costs they’ve been asked to pay after breaking a CPN, they must do so within 21 days.

Civil injunction

A civil injunction can be issued against someone aged 10 or over who’s using, or threatening to use, a dog in antisocial behaviour, eg when intimidating someone.

A civil injunction is usually issued:

  • to deal with more serious antisocial behaviour than that covered by a CPN
  • when the person responsible for the dog has previously been told to change their behaviour but hasn’t done so

If the owner or dog’s behaviour is harmful or likely to harm others, a civil injunction can include the power to arrest someone immediately.

A civil injunction can be issued by:

  • a police officer

  • a council officer

  • an RSL approved by a council

  • the Environment Agency (EA)

  • Natural Resources Wales (NRB)

  • Transport for London (TfL)

  • NHS Protect

  • Public Health Wales

A civil injunction can last:

  • indefinitely, for over-18s

  • up to a year, for under-18s

You must consult your local youth offending team before issuing a civil injunction against someone under 18.

When a civil injunction can be issued

A court must approve your request for a civil injunction before it’s issued. You can apply if you believe the behaviour, based on the ‘balance of probability’ (in other words, more likely than not) causes:

  • harassment, alarm or distress to a person, in public places such as town centres or shopping areas

  • nuisance or annoyance if it’s happening inside someone’s home - this includes nuisance or annoyance to anyone outside of the home, eg a neighbour

Before issuing a civil injunction

You’ll need to compile a case based on the balance of probability with evidence that supports your request.

Apply for a civil injunction at:

  • a county court or the high court, for adults

  • a youth court, for under-18s

Penalties for breaking a civil injunction

An over-18 could get up to 2 years in prison or an unlimited fine if they don’t comply with a civil injunction. An under-18 could get a supervision order or a detention order.

Civil injunction appeals

Appeals against a civil injunction are made:

  • to the high court, for over-18s
  • to a crown court, for under-18s

Criminal behaviour order

A criminal behaviour order (CBO) can be issued to anyone aged 10 or over who has both:

  • been convicted of a criminal offence already
  • shown persistent and serious antisocial behaviour

A CBO can deal with a wide range of antisocial behaviour to:

  • prevent or stop it
  • deal with its causes, eg if a dog has already attacked someone and the local community believes the owner can’t control it

Police or councils must provide evidence and ask a prosecutor, usually the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), to apply for the CBO.

The hearing will take place either after or at the same time as sentencing for the criminal conviction.

An appropriate person, eg DLO or animal welfare officer, must supervise CBO requirements. The CBO must state who this person is.

A CBO can last:

  • 1 to 3 years, for under-18s

  • 2 years to indefinitely, for over-18s

When a CBO can be issued

A CBO can only be issued when the court believes that all of these conditions are met:

  • it’s ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that the offender’s behaviour caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to a person
  • the CBO will help prevent the offender from repeating the behaviour

If an offender is under 18, prosecutors must consult a youth offending team before applying for the CBO.

Penalties for breaking a CBO

If an over-18 breaks a CBO they could be given one or both of the following:

  • an unlimited fine
  • up to 5 years in prison

For under-18s, hearings take place in a youth court. The maximum sentence is 2 years in either:

  • a secure children’s home
  • a secure training centre
  • a young offender institution

Changing, ending or extending a CBO

The court that made the CBO may change (‘vary’), end (‘discharge’) or extend it. The court can also add extra conditions onto it.

The offender or the prosecution can apply for a CBO to be varied or discharged. If the court rejects the application, you can’t apply again without the court’s consent.

CBO appeals

Appeals against CBOs must be made to:

  • a crown court, if the CBO was made in a magistrate or youth court
  • the court of appeal, if the CBO was made in a crown court

Annual review for under-18s

The police and council must annually review any CBO issued against an under-18 to:

  • make sure they’re complying with it properly
  • check whether the CBO needs to be varied or discharged

The police and council can ask anyone relevant, eg a youth offending team, to take part in the review.

Public spaces protection order

Councils can use a public spaces protection order (PSPO) to place restrictions on a public area, such as a park or a town centre. Restrictions can apply to either:

  • all dog owners
  • owners who meet specific conditions set out by the council

Councils can make a PSPO unless they’re:

  • a parish or town council in England
  • a community council in Wales

PSPO restrictions include:

  • limiting how many dogs can be walked by an owner at one time
  • requiring dogs to be on a lead in a specific public area
  • requiring owners to pick up their dog’s litter
  • preventing dogs from being in a certain place, eg a children’s play area in a park

A PSPO lasts up to 3 years and can be renewed.

When a PSPO can be issued

Because a PSPO is applied to a whole public area rather than to individuals, it should be used carefully. Consider whether there can be exceptions for working dogs, eg assistance dogs.

A PSPO can only be issued when a dog’s behaviour meets these conditions:

  • it’s affecting or is likely to affect the quality of life of people in the area

  • it’s persistent

  • it justifies imposing restrictions on a whole public area

If a PSPO restricts local people’s space to walk dogs, you should provide other space to do this.

Before issuing a PSPO

The council must consult the following before issuing a PSPO:

  • the chief officer for the police area
  • the area’s police and crime commissioner
  • representatives of people who it believes will be affected by the restrictions, eg residents associations or people who use the area
  • the owner or occupier of the land
  • dog law and welfare experts, eg vets or animal welfare officers
  • organisations affected by the restrictions

Find out more about PSPOs.

Police: Dog legislation officer

Every police service should have a trained dog legislation officer (DLO). If it doesn’t, it must have procedures in place so that it can access a DLO.

The DLO should be someone who is both:

  • trained in dog law

  • understands how to identify a banned dog

The DLO must be able to act as a single point of contact for anyone investigating dog-related crimes.

Published 4 August 2015