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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71146
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I have a letter from my local council (Lancaster City Council)

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I have a letter from my local council (Lancaster City Council) in relation to a Dog Control Order. I have no problem with complying with the conditions in general - keeping my dog on a lead in all public places etc - which I do anyway. But the letter also says that my dog must be tethered or on a lead at all times in my garden - it is a detached house with a decent size open plan front garden facing the street - and I feel that this is unreasonable. My dog likes to be in the garden and is, in fact, well trained. She is nine years old and is never out there alone, always supervised. She has never left the precincts of my property on her own and is never likely to. Can I be compelled to keep her tethered in such a way on my property or have I some rights to allow her freedom as long as she stays within those boundaries? Should I, in fact, enter a dispute with the council over this one condition and what would be the likely outcome. The dog in question is a Neapolitan Mastiff - she has never bitten or even threatened anyone but there are neighbours who have complained that she is 'intimidating' when out on the garden

Thank you for your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this.

Do you mean they are applying for a control order under the Dogs Act?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

No, not at this stage.I can give you a full history of this dispute if you wish but the outcome at the moment is that I have a letter dated March 17 which is headed Local Government Act 1972/Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and says that Tia (that is the dog's name) should be tethered or held on a lead when in the front garden, including when accompanied. There are other conditions about control when in public places, which I have no problem with - it is just this business about my own garden which angers me when the dog has done nothing to warrant the restriction.

The letter concludes "I would strongly advise that you keep Tia on a short lead in other public areas such as bridleways and public footpaths" and says that should the council receive evidence that I am not comlplying (which I presume means neighbours complaining) the council will "give serious consideration to applying for an injunction or Anti-Social Behaviour Order."

That suggests to me they realise that the dog's behaviour does not warrant a control order but they are targeting my apparent intransigence in failing to comply with the most onerous of their demands as an alternative approach to keep the 'intimidated' neighbours quiet. But I need to know what the law says on this matter.


Are you prepared to risk going to court over this?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

At the moment, no, but that is why I am seeking advice. I want to be able to gauge the likely outcome before committing myself.

The background here is that Tia was attacked by a small dog (much smaller than her) in September 2012. The outcome was inevitable and that was that the small dog was injured. it is the owner of that dog who complained and started this ongoing saga. His dog is OK and is still a nasty little beast which has been involved in other incidents but has no sanctions against it while Tia is being painted as a villain and now treated as such.

That is why I feel so strongly that my dog should not be restricted for simply defending herself - but I don't want to waste money fighting a losing cause.

Basically, can they or can they not restrict my behaviour (and that of my dog) on my own property in this way. If not, then I will be willing to fight them.

Thank you.

The difficulty here is this. Where ever there is a dispute the stronger party will always be blamed. It's something that runs throughout the criminal law. Wherever there is a domestic squabble men are always blamed because generally they are stronger. Whenever there is a road traffic collision the larger car or non-vulnerable will always be blamed. Whenever there is a scrap between larger dog and a smaller the larger dog will always be considered more dangerous. It is a complete myth to say that the person with greater injury is necessarily the victim but on the whole it is the way the law works.

The simple truth is that if you don't agree they may complain to the magistrates court. They can only use the dogs act 1871 because this is private land and it involves a scrap with another animal. The dogs act is a civil matter so you are not at risk of a criminal record.

Actually there is caselaw and the dogs act that says that one incident is not sufficient to show dangerousness but they usually trot out some other complaints and magistrates, who are generally biased in favour of the Crown, take the view that a control order would do no harm.

If you went to court, it is quite unlikely that a control order would be made that you keep your dog on a lead in your own private property unless there is something like a public right of way running through it and even then a condition of muzzling would be more appropriate..

The only other issue to consider is that they could seek an ASBO against you. It is quite unlikely that they would get it on these facts but it depends what else they have the support it.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Jo C. and 2 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your help. I understand the reply and feel aggrieved that my dog would be seen as the guilty party despite the circumstances. The scrap between the dogs was on a public road, not my property - outside the other dog's house when it broke through a hedge and attacked my dog which was actually making friends with another neighbour's dog at the time. The law can sometimes be an ass.

Tia is already tethered when out in the garden with me for any length of time and is on a short lead in public places on walks. The only time she is not on a lead in the garden is when I let her out in the evening - sometimes at 7pm and always at around 9.30pm for a 'last wee'. There is never anyone about and no-one is threatened by her but that is what the dispute is over - obviously vindictive curtains are twitching and reporting the 'transgression' from the city council edict. We are talking maybe five minutes a day maximum.

I feel happier about my position with your advice - should the city council wish to push this matter I can at least give them some sort of battle before I roll over

However, the bottom line is that Tia is nine years old - a 'good age' for a mastiff, according to the vet - and has a tumour. I don't think it is worth spending a huge amount of money for a principle that might stand up after a long dispute for a dog that is about to or has just died.


Thank you for your help - if you have any further advice I would be glad to hear it.

To be wholly honest, if you went to court over this under the dogs act then they would probably only get a condition of leading and muzzling in public.

I do see your point about costs though. The problem with the entire legislation covering dogs is that appeal and contested hearings cost and nobody is likely to incur legal costs unless there is a judgement against them that hurts.

Under the dangerous dogs act, when it carried mandatory destruction of the dog everybody was appealing. Now that they all get their dogs back under contingent destruction orders you can never get anybody to appeal and so the Crown get away with things.