Rule on walking your dog by the road could see you facing jail

By Neil Shaw & Mya Bollan

Even if your dog is perfectly behaved when out on a walk you might still be breaking the law, experts have warned.

The obedient nature of a dog may not be enough to help owners escape possible jail time and a hefty fine.

Many of our beloved pups are well behaved enough to stroll by our sides when out on a wander - with some even confident enough to walk their dogs off their lead at the side of the road.

But leadless pups could get owners in big trouble, according to Hull Live.

Dogs walking on or near the highway could land their owners in hot water - enough to face jail time and a fine of up to £20,000.

Experts from car leasing site, Select Car Leasing, want to warn dog owners of the dangers to ensure they don’t fall foul.

Select Car Leasing’s Managing Director Graham Conway explains: “If you’ve got your dog well trained, good for you. It’s a brilliant thing to achieve and you should be proud that you’re being a responsible pet owner.

“However, do not fall into the trap of simply being too smug or over-confident.

“You may have seen well-behaved dogs walking at the side of busy roads without a lead, or even crossing busy roads while walking at the side of their owners. To the bystander, it might appear as if the situation is all in control. The onlooker might even be suitably impressed.

“But in the eyes of the law, that’s an offence, landing you with a criminal record and a hefty fine.

“And you can understand the reasoning behind the legislation. If your dog suffers a momentary lapse in concentration or obedience, and ends up darting into the road, there’s a risk it could cause serious injury to other road users - as well as to itself.

“If the very worst happened because of your out-of-control dog, you could face six months in prison and a £20,000 fine.”

The law surrounding dogs on leads near roads is very clear.

Under the Road Traffic Act 1988 it is a criminal offence for a dog to be on a ‘designated road’ without being held on a lead.

Local authorities also have the power to issue a Dog Control Order, which comes with a maximum fine of £1,000 – which can be issued as a fixed penalty notice in place of a prosecution.

The Highway Code, Rule 56, also says: “Do not let a dog out on the road on its own. Keep it on a short lead when walking on the pavement, road or path shared with cyclists, horse riders, and pedestrians. This includes bridleways.”

There are, however, a few exceptions – including for dogs that are used for tending sheep or cattle in the course of a trade or business or for trained pooches engaged in work for the police or armed forces.

However, Select Car Leasing’s Graham Conway points out: “Those exemptions only apply when the dog is on duty. If the dog is just out for an evening stroll with its owner after completing its duties, the same rules about leads apply.”

There are other important things to remember for dog owners - particularly if you’re one of the many millions of Brits new to dog ownership having acquired a new furry family member during the pandemic lockdown.

The Select Car Leasing motoring expert reveals: “The Road Traffic Act 1998, Section 27, also specifies that all dogs - whether near a road or not - should be kept under control by the owner or whoever is in charge at the time.

“That means that if you pass the lead of your dog to your young child - however well intentioned that act might be - and the dog then bolts while your child loses grip on the leash, you can face prosecution.

“The Act clearly states that reasonable care must be taken to ensure the dog does not cause injury or damage by straying onto a road. And letting your dog off the lead near a highway just because you think it’s infallible is not ‘reasonable care’.”

According to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, a whopping 3.2 million UK households acquired a pet at the start of the pandemic – with almost half of those being dogs.

Meanwhile Select Car Leasing also recently warned about the dangers posed by vehicle airbags if you let your pooch ‘ride shotgun’ with you in the front passenger seat.

A Select Car Leasing spokesperson said: “Most dog owners will know they need to keep their pet suitably restrained when they’re in a car, as stipulated by the Highway Code.

“But many owners are left confused as to whether dogs are allowed in the front seat or not. It’s something of a grey area.

“Whilst not particularly recommended - dogs should generally be in the backseat or boot for their own safety – there are plenty of owners who do let their dogs ride shotgun, particularly if they own a sports car that only has two seats in the first place.

“But you should only ever have your dog by your side while driving if you’re able, and know how, to disable the front passenger airbag, as some vehicles don’t actually have an override function.

“Failing to disable the airbag could result in catastrophic injuries for a dog. An airbag is designed to provide protection for a human, not a canine, and the cushioning is simply in the wrong place.

“When an airbag deploys it does so with so much force it could even crush a dog cage.

“We’ve also heard of cases where a dog has actually been catapulted towards the driver as a result of the airbag going off, resulting in serious injuries for both the dog and the motorist.

“We’d urge all dog owners, particularly those with a lockdown pooch and new to dog ownership, to make themselves aware of the dangers.”

Some cars allow for the disabling of the front passenger airbag - but you need to consult your vehicle manufacturer guidebook before taking such action.

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