The eight UK laws every pet owner needs to know

Derri Dunn
27 April 2022 - 4 min read
A dog lawyer

The latest Pet Population Survey has shown that as of April 2022, there are a record 35 million pets in the UK. That’s 62% of households with at least one furry family member.

But with all these new four-legged householders, there’s a lot of essential (and sometimes plain weird) legislation that their humans need to keep up with.

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Man and dog high-five
Man and dog high-five

We’ve drawn up a list of eight unusual, important or downright wacky pet and animal laws that exist in the UK.

How many are news to you? Time to swot up, responsible pet parents…

1. You must carry spare poo bags when dog-walking

Most of us dog owners know that it’s an offence to not pick up dog poo. Local councils have the power to fine you for it on the spot.

Dog poo sign

But did you know that some councils can even fine you for not carrying a specified number of poo bags?

North Somerset Council is the latest example. In November 2021 it brought in new rules that owners must carry at least one poo bag or they risk a £75 fine.

Some other councils that enforce poo bag carrying are:

  • Daventry Council, which can slap dog-walkers with a £100 fine if they don’t “carry the means for picking up their dog’s poo while on a walk”. 
  • Canterbury City Council announced in 2018 it would fine any dog walkers found not to be carrying at least two poo bags, as an alternative to catching repeat fouling offenders in the act.

Even if you get stopped after disposing of a used bag, unless you have a spare, you could be fined. So best bring a few, just in case.

2. Don’t drink and ride

Ah, those balmy summer evenings, perfect for a saddle up and trot to the local boozer with your best equine pal…

…Think again. Under the Licensing Act 1872, it is illegal to be “drunk while in charge on any highway or other public place of any carriage, horse, cattle…” 

Yep. That means you can’t take your cows either, sorry.

The law says nothing about a couple of pints with a canine chum though, so check out our favourite dog friendly pubs to explore this summer.

3. No cows on the street from 10am-7pm

Speaking of cows, according to the Metropolitan Streets Act of 1867, “no cows may be driven down the roadway” between 10am and 7pm unless it has been approved by the Commissioner of the Police.

Cow in a city

4. Thou shalt not fraternise with the royal pets

It was an executable offence to allow your pet to mate with a pet of the royal house without permission.

This law dates back to before George I. Although the death penalty was abolished in 1965, the offence is still punishable.

If your hound’s the sort to eye up a passing Corgi, keep them on a tight leash when the Royal entourage is in town.

5. Some dogs need insurance by law

A caged dog

For most dog and cat owners pet insurance is entirely optional – but we’d strongly recommend it to avoid the financial shock of a sudden vet bill.

But for dogs that have been identified as a banned type under the Dangerous Dogs Act and exempted, third party dog insurance is a legal requirement, along with being muzzled at all times in public. Yet unfortunately, despite these dogs proving to a court that they are safe to be around, it can be very hard to find cover.

Read our guide to the Dangerous Dogs Act to find some possible insurers.

6. You can't sell puppies under eight weeks old

In 2020 we welcomed Lucy's Law, which banned selling puppies and kittens under eight weeks old and also effectively stopped their sale by petshops.

Find out more about how to buy a puppy safely, from a seller that's following the law.

7. No pigsties at the front of your house

From micro to jumbo, pigs are rising in popularity as pets in the UK but did you know that keeping them at the front of your house is a criminal offence?

According to the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, it is illegal to have a pigsty at the front of your house (unless it is ‘duly’ hidden).

8. You must microchip your dog… and your cat

Every dog owner knows by now that their dog should be microchipped. Compulsory microchipping for canines became law back in 2016.

Microchip scanner

But in 2022 the legislation catches up with cat owners too. There’s no exact date for the introduction of the law yet, but cats will need to be microchipped by the age of 20 weeks. 

You can find out more about the existing microchip laws for dogs and the new proposals for cats in our guide to the laws around compulsory microchipping.

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