Being a responsible dog owner

Your legal responsibilities as a dog owner

You have a responsibility to ensure that your pet does not cause a nuisance to others. This means that you must comply with certain laws, most of which are straight forward and are there to ensure that people and dogs can live happily and safely in the community.

Laws you must comply with

Dog fouling

Picking up after your dog is an important part of being a responsible dog owner. In 2016 a public space protection order (PSPO) was introduced in Colchester against the anti-social behaviour of dog fouling.

Under the above PSPO, owners are required to clear up after their dogs in public areas. Failure to do this can result in a fixed penalty charge of £100 or a fine in court of up to £1000.

Collar and tag

The law says that all dogs must wear a collar and tag with the name and address of the owner. You may be fined if your dog does not have a tag.

Having a tag ensures that any member of the public can return your dog to you if they should become lost.


Microchipping provides the security of knowing that if your dog strays, the chances of being reunited with them is far more likely. Under the microchipping law that came into effect on 6 April 2016, all dogs and puppies must be microchipped and registered by the age of eight weeks.

Get your dog microchipped

Controlling your dog in public

It is against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control anywhere, such as:

  • in a public place
  • in a private place, for example, a neighbour’s house or garden
  • in the owner’s home

The law applies to all dogs.

Does my dog need training?

Dogs need to be well socialised and trained from an early age. Attending a training class and being consistent with training will help you raise a well-behaved dog.

To help keep your dog safe, the five basic commands they should know are: sit, down, stay, come, and heel.

If you believe your dog would benefit from training, your vet will be able to advise you on local classes and instructors.

We also carry out a range of educational activities to promote responsible dog ownership at a variety of community and police led events.

How to report issues of cruelty towards dogs

The RSPCA's primary function is to promote kindness and prevent cruelty.

If you need to report cruelty or a dog in distress you can call the RSPCA 24-hour cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 or contact them online.

Further advice

Further advice for dog owners and how to be a responsible dog owner can be found online at the DogsTrust.


Page last reviewed: 16 May 2024


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