Dog owners risk £5k fine or jail for using harness instead of collar on walks

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

Dog owners who walk their pooch using a harness instead of a collar could be hit with a hefty fine, or even face jail time.

The strict punishment could be enforced as it is against the law for failing to put your name and address on your dog’s tag when out in public.

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The law 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 be safer.

However, dogs are still required to wear a collar with a tag with details of their owner.

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.

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).

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 dogs wear 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.

This article originally appeared on our sister site, NationalWorld.