Should dog licensing be reintroduced in the UK?

 In the last week alone, we’ve had two run-ins with dogs where the owners were unable to control their pets. Yesterday, we went for a walk at Heartwood Forest near St Albans, which is a Mecca for dog walkers and for kids wanting to build dens. On our way back to the car a dog came running at my four year old growling and barking. It was not on a lead.  Luckily, the owner got to the dog before I did.

The owners seemed very nice and were very apologetic claiming that ‘he doesn’t like children?’ This begs the question, why take him to a place where there’s a very good chance you will come across children?

The case for leads

I would never suggest that all dogs should be muzzled nor should they not be allowed to roam free in public places. In this case, I feel the dog owners have every right to take their dog for a walk in the woods but this particular animal should have been on a lead. A few minutes before this we had a gorgeous Husky coming bounding towards us off of a lead, but the owners were able to call it back immediately and I had absolutely no problem with this.

Unless you’re 100% sure of the temperament of the animal and you can stop the animal on a sixpence it should be on a lead in public places. Some people seem to be taking unnecessary risks which could have devastating outcomes.

Another attack

So, when I returned home and read in the news that a six-year old girl had part of her ear bitten off by a Bull Terrier I flew off the handle. The father had to punch the dog repeatedly and the owner fled, however, he has now turned himself into police. I do appreciate that we will never know the full story and in a lot of the cases children can be to blame for antagonizing the animals.

It may be the media but it seems that dog attacks seem to be on the rise and something needs to be done.

In Canada, dog owners are required to have a dog license, linking the animal to an individual. People pay a yearly fee and if you don’t have a dog license they have the right to remove the animal. I can’t help thinking this would be a good idea in the UK. Apparently, there was a scheme but it was scrapped in the 80s? I would love to know why it was binned.

We do have a local dog warden but they only get involved if there has been an incident. This seems to be reactionary and that something should be put in place to stop it or decrease the chances of it happening in the first place.

Is it unfair?

Many ‘responsible’ dog owners feel that this is unfair as they’re being punished for the bad behaviour of a few and I can’t disagree. And I can see that people are sceptical and rightly so, that it would only be another way of lining the taxman’s pocket with little or no benefit to dog owners. But, what if the money was earmarked for dog parks, beaches, dog rehabilitation, etc?

Would it deter ‘trophy’ dog owners if they were directly linked to the animal and responsible for its behaviour? Would it be a way of vetting dog owners and ensuring the welfare of the animals?

I would love your thoughts on this one.

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Author: mediocremum

A slightly older mum of one, who drinks far too much red wine and has an unhealthy obsession with her slow cooker. During the day she's an ICT Trainer, Social Media/Online Marketing consultant and does a bit of public speaking. Full Profile on Google+

28 thoughts on “Should dog licensing be reintroduced in the UK?”

  1. I agree that there are many dogs who need to be on a lead, and whose owners can’t be bothered. I have a lab who walked off lead from age 3 – 7 and went back on a lead when she went blind, but so many dogs shouldn’t be off leads at all.

    I remember the dog license scheme. I think it was stopped because it cost more to run than they got back in fees and it mean that lots of pups etc were being abandoned. It was a long time ago so I could have got that wrong.

  2. Introducing dog licenses would only work if regular checks were carried out. How often would that happen? If there was no “stop and search” then those irresponsible dog owners wouldn’t bother getting one. Also what would the cost be? Again, people just wouldn’t get one if it were cost prohibitive. I just think that those that can’t be bothered to control their dog or even learn to understand it’s temparament aren’t going to be bothered about getting a piece of paper.

    I think dogs should be kept on a lead at all times in public places, especially where children are and dedicated dog parks should be built where only dogs and their owners at allowed. No doubt councils will put up signs saying “no responsibility accepted for injury or death caused during the use of this park” but that’s the risk you take in owning a dog, surely.

    At the end of the day, dog wardens need to take more action to ensure dogs are controlled or if licenses are brought back that they are in place, but dog owners have the ultimate responsibility for their dogs and their actions.

    1. I can’t agree more. It’s down to the owners and the majority are responsible owners but we do get the minority that ruin this.

  3. I have a dog and would have no problem with having a license to own him. I am very lucky in that our dog is obedient and comes back when called. He is scared of small children which is also a bonus!

    Having said all that he did nip a child a few years ago, she pushed and pushed at him and when he had had enough, he did warn her initially by growling and when she carried on, despite being told by her Mother, then he nipped her.

    You cannot trust a dog 100%, I trust my dog to be let off the lead because I know he will come back when called, as he gets older and starts to stop hearing us it will be time to keep him on the lead.

    1. As I did mention a lot of the time it is the kids antagonising them. Our cat once bit our daughter but she had it suspended by it’s fur. It was just politely saying, you better let go…..

  4. Boy got attacked by a dog in Ver Park, it scratched his face he was only about 2 at the time & is now terrified of dogs. Alex was on the front of the local paper at the time, very few people commiserated, most felt that the dog was behaving perfectly reasonably in a park.
    Local dog owners seem to think its alright for their dogs to jump on you, its something that lead to me not being able to walk to work through the park because I would get covered in mud before I even got there. I got fed up with countless arguments every morning and explaining to dog owners that i’m actually frightened of dogs. It was always the same sort of people as well, who invariably had big trophy dogs. Woman with the doberman who bounced me and several work colleagues EVERY morning I’m looking at you in particular.

    I reckon licenses would be a great idea, however it still wont solve the problem of people thinking that their dog is not going to turn and that everyone loves their dog.

    1. I must admit, I grew up with dogs, everything from St Bernard’s to Poodles. However, later in life I had a couple of bad experiences and am a bit wary if I come across a dog that is not on a lead. I think one of the biggest problems is lack of training, dogs need a lot of input which many people are too busy to do. I don’t care how friendly your dog is I don’t want it jumping all over me.

  5. I think the problem with licenses was the expense (cost more to run than it received). Are dog attacks on the increase? Do you have evidence for that or is it just anecdotal? I ask because it is easy to say without references. A quick google found this report which was interesting (I skimmed and read the conclusion)
    Also, this journalist is fantastic about dogs and the problems, this is just one article she wrote:

    1. Thanks for the links. Off to have a read. As I hinted in the article that it ‘appears’ that dog attacks are on the increase but this could be media coverage.

      1. If you get a chance read the first link that Ella sent. It’s very interesting. I was stunned at the costs of dog ownership in relation to human injury, livestock and road accidents.

        Many people claim that a dog licensing scheme wasn’t possible due to lack of funding but according to this article a scheme could be set up for approx £20-£30 per dog.

  6. I totally agree with zooarchaeologist! I have a phobia of dogs and find it distressing to even walk past a dog “don’t worry love he wouldn’t hurt a fly” and many dog owners laugh at me. Unlike zooarchaeologist I have not been attacked in the past, however my mum was afraid of dogs (not to the extent that I am) and apparently if your parent even squeezes your hand slightly in the presence of something then it can psychologically harm you (don’t know if there is any truth in that). I try my damned hardest not to show any fear for dogs when I am with my children which is extremely difficult but then it all gets undone when my 6yr old son encounters a staffordshire bull terrier bounding at him and jumping on him! This was in a residential area and I was absolutely fuming! Luckily he wasn’t hurt but that is beside the point really.

    I agree with dog licensing for the welfare of the dogs and also think that dog training is a good idea, I just don’t think it will change the attitude of a lot of dog owners.

  7. As a former Rottweiler owner myself, who used to have a pack of 4 as well as two other dogs. I know a bit about responsible dog ownership. My late wife was an expert, who as well as many other things also worked at Honiley Rescue Centre nr Warwick.

    We always used to muzzle our Rotties, even though Mac was a huge big softie, who preferred sniffing the flowers than attacking people, when there were kids about in public places.

    Kids and dogs unaccompanied do not work well together. Kids can and do tease dogs and sometimes touch inappropriately, which is gong to make a dog aggressive.

    Add this to the fact that some men insist on having a Pit Bull Terrier as a mark of their machismo and you have a recipe for disaster.

    There should be a dog licence in the UK, theyve made the driving test harder in recent years so why not a dog licence. There should be a compulsory course that you had to attend before you were allowed to keep a dog and Pit Bull Terriers should be banned in this country, but there still seems to be a lot of them about.

    when my wife was working a Honiley she often used to have to go our and do a “Fence Check” at the home of where the dog was to be kept. I’ve lost count of the amount of fences that she found to be unacceptable.

    John Wheatcroft

  8. The dog licence was abolished because it became completely pointless and unenforcable, it relied on people voluntarily going and buying it at the PO, however there was and is no official body to enforce it. It was 37p. Nobody, as far as I can remember, was ever prosecuted for not having a dog licence.

    I don’ think any responsible dog owner would have a qualm about having a licence, as long as it was enforced and not just a tax for the ‘responsible people’.

    I always call my dog away from children, he is friendly but very large and can be a bit scary for little people. I am amazed at the number of parents who allow their children to approach dogs they don’t know (even on a lead) without asking permission or if the dog is friendly.

    However, a lack of licence does not cause the problem of the anti-social behaviour of some dog owners, be it by having no control over their dogs or encouraging bad behaviour by poor ownership or deliberate fighting to ‘look tough’.

    It also annoys me as a dog owner when other dogs off their leads attack my dog, because the owners can’t control their dog (I’ve heard all kinds of excuses like ‘my dog doesn’t like brown dogs’). There is no excuse for having a dog off the lead that is intimidating to children, people or other animals. However, if my dog is bitten by a dog on its lead because he has approached it, I’m in the blame for allowing that to happen.

    Is the answer having the owners tested and having a licence to be a worthy dog owner?

    1. I completely agree. I can see why the original scheme failed as 37p is nowhere near what is needed. According to the article that Ella added above a successful scheme could be run for around £30 per animal and most people think this is reasonable.

  9. Am not too familiar with how licenses work, but do agree there needs to be some sort of control as to who is allowed to keep pets. Having recently adopted a rescue dog I am only too familiar with the problem of off lead dogs and their owners inability to recall them. In fact, being a dog walker/pet sitter, irresponsible dog ownership is something I (and fellow dog professionals I share frustration with) encounter daily.
    My dog is fearful and gets aggressive when dogs she sees as a threat approach her. We have to walk places where leads are law and even then do we meet dogs off lead. It can be scary, stressful and frustrating – especially for my dog.
    I think a lot more policing by dog wardens and stricter rules for dog walkers must apply. There is so much ignorance unfortunately, and the fact of the matter is dogs are not bred to be friends with other dogs. As for children I do think same argument applies, keep your dog on the lead ESPECIALLY if you don’t know how they are arounds kids and never if they do not come when you call them.

    In my opinion it would also be beneficial to employ ‘dog parks’ like they do in the states, where dogs are fenced in and can be taken off lead. I would also really like if there were more doggy playgrounds i.e with agility stuff. Dogs can still have fun whilst on the lead.

    I think asking a reasonable price to pay for a doggy license shouldn’t be a problem for dog owners, it is already expensive owning pets (responsibly) so an extra one off payment (like the £120 we paid the rspca for Millie) shouldn’t deter anyone who really wants a pup.

    There are a lot of problems with dog law in the UK at the moment in my opinion irresponsible dog ownership/ breeding is getting out of hand so not sure this is something they are likely to tackle positively. Is easier to blame and ban the breeds than tackle owners etc. very sad.

    1. Thanks Astrid, as a professional dog walker I was really interested to hear your views and I’m glad that you also feel that this is important.

  10. I honestly don’t think a licence will happen. It will cost far too much to organise and this country are spending all the money they have on rich people who think they need more. It’s a question of responsibility. In so far as dog attacks go, it infuriates me to hear of these. But it’s the owner at fault. Certain dogs are dangerous, but all are unpredictable.

    I have 4 collies, all working sheep dogs and all unpredictable. I would trust Sparky and Molly with anyone, but the other 2, especially Meggie, I would never trust with children even though she’s a wonderful dog. None of my dogs have been off the farm apart from trips in the car to the vets. Until people take responsibility and learn that all dogs are unpredictable, even their sweet-hearted, beloved, would-never-harm-a-fly Labrador, this problem with persist. I don’t know what the answer is apart from responsible ownership.

    CJ x

  11. We have a young dog and while we are working hard to train her I cannot imagine a point where I would trust her enough to be off the lead. I think people forget what a big responsibility owning a dog is.

    1. Dogs take a lot of hard work. My cousin who has 3 children got a Border Collie with the best intentions but in the end had to give her up to a farm owner as she didn’t have the time and energy to train it properly. Gorgeous dog though.

  12. Yes! Bring in a dog licence that makes the owner accountable. I live in Hackney, East London, so trophy dogs are a common sighting. Often it’s the owners and their lack of ability to control their dogs that scare me more than the dogs themselves.

  13. I actually don’t know where out dog’s lead is. He has been walked off the lead for the last 3-4 years. I dare to do this because I know the dog well: he is extremely well-behaved, docile and I have trained dogs since I was 13. (This is a dog that knows to shake his coat on command… just so he shakes his wet coat outside not once he gets into the clean house. (o; ).
    I detest those dog owners who have little or no control over their dogs and yet let them off the lead. We have had on countless occasions when my dog was lying by the fence on the outside of the playground, just to have another dog aggressively running upto him. This is not fair to on the well-behaved dog or any person who may be afraid of dogs.
    When out walking I will only let him upto people who show an active interest, that is normal.
    On the other hand, I get quite upset by kids who go into a complete screaming fit when a dog appears and parents not calming them & talking sense to them. I understand the fear! (I have faced some extremely frightening situations with dogs myself.) However, I also know that this sort of behaviour can easily aggravate a dog. We need to teach children how to react to dogs, not run away, scream or show aggression against the animal. but take a firm stance. … easier said than done I know!
    Chrissie, what is your take, as someone who has a phobia of dogs? BTW did you meet ours when you were over?

    1. Hi Monika,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. As I mentioned to in a previous comment I did grow up with dogs but unfortunately, a couple of bad experiences have made me wary. If I have the opportunity to meet a dog in a controlled way (on a lead) I have absolutely no problem but must admit that I nearly have heart failure if one comes running at me and this is, sorry to, say related to the type of dog. I get less jumpy with border collies, retrievers and labs.

      I thought it was very interesting what you say about children and dogs. I have done my dambdest not to show my fear to my daughter and it worked. We have the opposite, she adores dogs and has been known to run up to them. We have taught her that she always needs to ask before she strokes a dog.

      I was pleased to see your advice, the other incident which I didn’t go into a mother was trying to control her kids and the dog and the dog came at my daughter aggressively. The first thing I shouted at M was ‘don’t run’. I have also explained to her that if this happens again never run, stand tall, put your hand out and shout ‘down’ strongly!

      A friend of mine who used to work on the rail lines taught me this as she said they are pack animals and need to be shown who is the leader.

      Oh and your dog wouldn’t hurt a fly!



  14. You still need a dog licence in N.I (u.k) which costs £12.50, only Britain done away with the dog licence not the U.K.

  15. I totally agree that you should have a licence for a dog. After all you have to prove you can look after a child otherwise the social welfare is involved. Having a licence fora dog is no different you are admitting responsibility and therefore money should not be an issue. I read that dogs have been abandoned because of the licence cost but I’m afraid this does not wash. It is an excuse for irresponsible people who want to have a dog but can’t be bothered to look after it properly. People should be screened before a licence can be obtained an a credit check similar to child adoption after all its one of the family. I have been disgusted by some of the episodes I have seen at battersea. But we have a long way to go because if any Tom dick or Harry can have a kid these day we don’t stand a dogs chance of getting the licence back any time soon

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