U.K. Spells Out Dog Owner Responsibilities

Government proposes guidelines on a pet’s diet, socialization, grooming, and more.

In England, the government recently unveiled a detailed outline that instructs dog owners on the proper way to care for pets, from a balanced diet and adequate bedding to providing exercise and housetraining.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs drafted the 28-page Consultation Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs, created to help dog owners fully understand their dogs’ needs and what the law requires. For example, owners must ensure a suitable living environment, a healthy diet, appropriate company, and protection from pain, suffering, injury, and disease.

Specifically, the code calls for the following standards:

  • Dogs must be fed at least once a day, but generally, it is advised to feed dogs twice a day.
  • Provide dogs with regular access to an appropriate place where they can go to the toilet.
  • Dogs should have plenty of things to stimulate them mentally that can be provided by contact with humans or another dog and by providing suitable toys to play with.
  • You should ensure that your dog’s coat is properly groomed.
  • During transportation, dogs should be secured with a safety harness.
  • Monitor a dog’s body condition to make sure the animal is not too thin or too heavy.
  • Avoid walking dogs during the hottest part of the day.
  • Dogs should not be routinely left on their own for more than a few hours during the day, as they are likely to get bored, leading to barking or destructive behavior.

The guidelines also remind dog owners of their legal obligation to clean dog waste from public areas. Although failure to comply with the code is not an offense, that failure could be used against a dog owner charged with general welfare offenses.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 mandated that pet owners and care givers have “a legal duty to take reasonable steps to ensure [the pet’s] welfare needs are met.” Pet owners found guilty of general welfare offenses face jail time and fines.

A code of conduct tailored for cats has also been proposed. The government will accept comments on the guidelines, released Nov. 4 and posted online and distributed through brochures, through Dec. 31, 2008.

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