The following article by Vanessa Henshall, Secretary of The Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Great Britain is on an important piece of proposed legislation which, if enacted, will affect every dog owner in the country



It has come to both mine and the Club’s attention the sudden influx of Proposed Dog Control Orders that are currently sweeping Borough Councils throughout the country, a few of which have been briefly covered by the Dog Press. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the majority of dog owners do not really understand the implications of these Orders which, if passed by the Borough Councils, will affect every single dog owner in the Borough.

Since the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act came into force in April 2006, local authorities have been given the power to issue these Dog Control Orders which can include banning dogs from certain areas, insisting on them being kept on leads, banning owners from walking more than a certain number of dogs at a time and imposing stiffer fines for not cleaning up after your dogs not to mention imposing fines of up to £1,000 for non compliance of any of the above.

Whilst the majority of the proposals should not overly concern any responsible dog owner, such as cleaning up after your dog(s), the Club and I are more concerned regarding the proposal that dogs have to be kept on leads. Each Borough Council has the choice of how far they wish to take this, but if taken to the extreme, it could mean that no dog would be allowed to run freely off the lead anywhere within that Borough. Although I am aware that many dog owners prefer to keep their dogs on a lead, surely this should be the choice of the dog owner and not the local Council?

By law the Council has to advertise in the local press their intention to impose such an order however, this tends to be found in the Planning and Applications or Classified section of the newspaper, which is not the most widely read part. Residents are also given a certain amount of time to respond to the proposal but obviously if you haven’t scrutinised the paper and found it, you won’t know that you need or want to respond! Furthermore, should these proposals become law even those owners that do study their local newspapers will not be kept informed about dog control orders being introduced in other local authority areas so could face prosecution if they walk their dog elsewhere.

The Kennel Club, via its website www.thekennelclub.org.uk has several pages dedicated the these proposed Dog Control Orders which not only includes details of Borough Councils currently seeking to pass this new law, but also gives a lot of helpful advice on how to respond to the order should one be proposed in your area.

It is also worth mentioning that not allowing dogs to run freely can be seen to be in direct contravention of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, in particular Section 4 Prevention of Harm (Unnecessary Suffering) and Section 9 Duty of Person Responsible for Animal to Ensure Welfare (Promotion of Welfare). Section 9, Part 2c, in particular calls for an animal to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns. In the case of Ridgebacks, could you honestly say that your dog could exhibit normal behaviour patterns whilst attached to you on a lead? The full document of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 is available online at www.defra.gov.uk  and despite its name and content, makes surprisingly easy reading.

You should also be aware that the RSPCA states that “different breeds of dogs require different levels of exercise – owners are obliged to find out what their dogs needs are. If it is believed a dogs needs are not being met, the RSPCA may investigate”.

I also contacted the charity, ‘Justice for Dogs’ over these issues, and in a reply made by Ann Harpwood, she states that this is “the most appalling piece of proposed legislation this Charity has ever seen”.

We would therefore urge all dog owners to respond to these proposed Dog Control Orders as if just one such order is passed, it will not be long before every single Borough Council follows suit and all dogs will become pariahs in our society. For a country that has long been termed a Nation of Animal Lovers, this is surely not acceptable.

Vanessa Henshall


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