Powers that police, councils and other authorities can use to control or improve the behaviour of dogs.
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:
a civil injunction (a type of injunction that focuses on antisocial behaviour)
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.
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
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:
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 community support officer (PCSO) who’s been authorised to issue it
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:
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.
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.
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)
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.
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 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