Out of Control Dogs

Do dogs have to be kept on a lead?

The law says that dogs must be kept under control, but does not state dogs must be kept on lead. If a dog responds to the owners commands and is kept close to heel, can lie down or returns on command, the dog would be considered to be under close control. If you're not sure that your dog can do this the responsible thing is to keep them on a lead.  If you cannot see the dog then it would be considered under control as you don’t know what it is doing.

'Out of Control'

Any dog, regardless of its breed, can cause fear and alarm, or even serious injury if its behaviour is 'out of control'. This does not mean that the dog has acted in an aggressive manner, however. What may seem like playful, friendly behaviour to one person, can be quite alarming to another i.e. dog running up uninvited to people/other dogs. Also, an overexcited dog which runs up to a dog which is not confident or sociable with other dogs, can lead to fights. All dog owners have a responsibility to ensure that their dog is under control and does not interfere with other members of the public. 

A dog which is out of control is no pleasure for a dog owner, and may cause fear and apprehension in other members of the public or in some circumstances even cause injury to other people or dogs.

The main aim of the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 (Opens in a new window or downloads a file) is to promote awareness of the responsibility involved in dog ownership.

The Act focuses on the "Deed not the Breed" (dealing with the problem rather than the particular breed of dog) approach in tackling irresponsible ownership. The key aim is to:

  • highlight the responsibilities of owners of "out of control" dogs at an early stage; and
  • provide the information and assistance needed to change the behaviour of the dog and the owner before the dog becomes dangerous.

This is fundamental in helping reduce the number of attacks by dogs of all breeds. The Act gives powers to local authorities for action to be taken against out of control dogs and enforce measures to improve any such behaviour.

After investigation, a Dog Control Notice (DCN) can be issued to owners of dogs that have been shown to be 'out of control', requiring the owner to modify and manage the dog's behaviour in order to control it in the interest of public safety. The DCN places a statutory duty on dog owners to keep their dog/s under control and may contain a number of measures that the owner is required to implement within a stated timeframe. These measures can include (but are not restricted to):

  • Muzzling the dog whenever it is in a public place
  • Keeping the dog on a lead
  • Having male dogs neutered
  • Keeping the dog away from specific environment or specified type of environment
  • Undertaking training to modify/control the dog's behaviour

The Act places a statutory duty on the Authorised Officers to monitor any DCNs that have been issued to ensure they are being complied with. Failure to comply with a DCN is a criminal offence and any breaches may be reported to the Procurator Fiscal. The owner may incur a fine of up to £1,000. In addition the court may make an order to disqualify a person from owning or keeping a dog for a period of time, instruct the Authorised Officer to reissue a new DCN with revised conditions, re-home the dog, or have the dog destroyed.

Any individual who has been caused alarm or apprehension by the behaviour of a dog should report the matter to the Comhairle for further investigation.