Many dog parents take their pups outside outfitted in harnesses instead of collar-clipping leashes. However, those whose dogs go out only in a harness without a labeled collar may face fines if they live in the U.K.
The Control of Dogs Order 1992 law for Scotland and England stipulates that a dog wear a collar with their owner’s name and address on it while in public. In other words, it’s illegal for your dog to go out without a tag with your name and address printed on it. The law requires your postal code be on the tag, but your phone number is optional.
Importantly, this rule doesn’t mean your dog can’t wear a harness. It means they have to have clear identification on them as well.
Punishment For Defying The Law
The risks for not ID-ing your dog are high. Under the Animal Health Act 1981, defying the collar rule is “punishable on summary conviction by a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.” Previously, that meant the fine was capped at a maximum of £5000. But in March of 2015, that changed.
A spokesperson for DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) told TeamDogs:
“For crimes committed after 13 March 2015, level 5 has been done away with and all criminal penalties expressed as being 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 (i.e. unlimited).”
According to the department, the maximum penalty if convicted could even be up to six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine. Of course, that’s the worst-case scenario.
A Divisive Issue
Owners who prefer to use harnesses on walks cite comfort and health issues in their dogs. Some smaller dogs face choking risks or injury with standard leashes and collars. Harnesses also make stronger dogs easier to control on walks for everyone’s safety.
“My dogs have a collar and a harness but I don’t see the issue if such breeds as bull dogs who can’t really wear collars have the tag on the harness and the harness is fitted properly.” – Stacey Elaine Charles via Facebook
Other opponents of the law argue that microchips contain this information without risking the person’s safety:
“I don’t know how others feel about putting their address on their dog but it’s something I have never, and will never do. It takes two seconds for someone to glance at the address whilst petting your dog and then turn up and steal them out of your garden. I have my mobile number on it and that’s it. I’ll risk the fine I think.” – Emma Hesperus via Facebook
Supporters of the law think the reasons for its existence are justified for the dog’s benefit:
“If I find your dog and it has no tag with your Tel number, the only thing to do is ring the dog warden. Then you’ll have to pay them to get him back. If you love him that much, tag him so he can come back to you sooner (& for free!) I don’t have time to look after someone else’s dog or find someone with a scanner to read the chip.” – Lisa Webster via Facebook
Obviously, no one wants to get fined or spend time in jail. That said, laws can be—and often are—changed. If you have thoughts on the issue, let us know what you think on social media.