Dogs and the law

Many people enjoy taking their dog for a walk in the glorious countryside which surrounds Sheffield, but have you ever wondered about your responsibilities as a dog owner in the eyes of the law?

Here’s a brief guide.

What you are liable for?

Can a farmer shoot your dog if it is worrying livestock?

Dogs in the car


What you are liable for?

You will be liable if your dog causes damage by killing or injuring livestock i.e. cattle, horses, sheep, pigs, goats and poultry (including pigeons). 

It doesn’t matter that you had no idea your dog was likely to rush off and have a go at the animal nor that you didn’t know there were any livestock in the area nor that you tried your best to stop the incident from happening. 

Neither does it matter that your dog didn’t in fact come into contact with any livestock because if it chases animals and they are injured as a result, that is enough. 

The bottom line is that if your dog kills or injures livestock you will have to pay compensation to the owner, usually the value of the animal.

 If your dog attacks livestock or even chases it on agricultural land you will be guilty of a criminal offence and can be prosecuted and fined up to £1000.00 as well as gaining a criminal record. 

Be aware also that you commit the same offence if your dog is off the lead and not otherwise under close control in a field in which there are sheep and that is the case regardless whether your dog attacks or chases the sheep or it doesn’t.

If you want to avoid any problems like that then the only safe course of action is to always keep your dog on a lead when walking in the countryside.

Can a farmer shoot your dog if it is worrying livestock?

We’ve all seen signs saying dogs found worrying livestock will be shot.  Can the farmer really do that?  Yes he can. 

If your dog is attacking or chasing after any of his livestock, or even if it’s not but he believes that it is about to, then he can shoot it or otherwise kill it but only if there is no other reasonable way of ending or preventing the harassment of his livestock.

We all tend to think our dogs are well behaved.  The owners of the dogs which are shot across the country every year, probably did as well. 

The point is if your keep your dog on a lead then you don’t need to worry about any of this.

Dogs in the car

It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that a dog is suitably restrained when travelling in a car.

Rule 57 of the Highway Code says 'when in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.'

Breaching the Highway Code is not necessarily an offence in itself, but if the Police find you are distracted as a result of travelling with an unsecured dog, or you are involved in an accident as a result, you may be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention, or even dangerous driving.

An unrestrained dog, could in some circumstances, invalidate your car insurance, so if you are involved in an accident you could be liable for the associated costs and expenses.

In an accident, dogs are also more likely to suffer injury or death if they are not secured in a vehicle and therefore, you could also risk being prosecuted under The Animal Welfare Act 2006, for causing unnecessary suffering to your dog.


Since April 2016 it has been compulsory to have your dog microchipped.  If you acquire a dog from someone else then it is compulsory for you to either get it microchipped or update the microchip database with your details.

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