Stray dogs – Code of Practice

Setting out the service provided in relation to stray dogs and the general principles that the council follows in relation to the enforcement

November 2022 – Version 2

1.0 Introduction

1.1 This code sets out the service provided in relation to stray dogs and the general principles that Thanet District Council (“the council”) follows in relation to the enforcement of stray dog legislation and the discretionary functions it undertakes.

1.2 The code aims to help the public understand what the law requires and how the council will approach its enforcement duties.

1.3 We will undertake any enforcement action as necessary, in a reasonable, equitable and proportionate manner.

1.4 The council’s approach will be incremental between education, assistance and enforcement.

1.5 This code will make a positive contribution towards the Council Corporate Priorities and Values.

1.6 This code provides guidance to authorised officers who carry out services in relation to stray dogs.

2.0 Our duties and obligations

2.1 The council has a statutory duty under s.149 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to appoint an officer for dealing with stray dogs found in its area. The council currently delivers a dog warden service to carry out all the duties associated with the seizure, detention and rehoming of stray dogs.

2.2 There are a number of accepted definitions of a stray dog.

  • a dog running at large whose owner is unknown.
  • a dog deemed to be running at large when found in any place other than the premises of the owner (as defined in by-laws PH-4, and PH-12) of the animal and not under control by means of a leash.
  • a homeless dog or a dog which, being in a place which does not form part of premises occupied by its owner or by some other person having care of it, is not under the direct supervision of its owner or of another person having care of it.

A dog may reasonably be treated as a stray if it is roaming freely and not under the control of any person, irrespective of whether it has a home. This applies whether or not the dog wears a collar with identification or is microchipped.

2.3 In April 2008 the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 introduced additional duties for local authorities to provide an acceptance point for stray dogs outside of “normal office hours” where practicable, a duty previously carried out by the police. Any stray dog found outside of the council’s Dog Warden operational hours (Monday to Friday 07.00 to 15:00 excluding bank holidays) should be kept until the next working day when an officer will collect the dog from them.

This responsibility does not extend to veterinary services, dog related charities or trusts.

2.4 We have a legal obligation to keep and maintain a public register of all seized dogs. The register must include the date, time and place of seizure, a brief description of the dog, any details recorded on the tag or collar, details of the person claiming the dog and details of any notice served on them or if the dog is not claimed details of its disposal by rehoming or destruction. The register has to be available for public inspection upon request. The public register will not show data regarding natural or legal persons that will reveal the identity of individuals.

2.5 Under the Public Space Protection Order 2020 the council can take action in respect of dogs which do not have a collar and appropriate identification tag. A microchip does not meet this statutory requirement. The council will encourage compliance where it appears necessary and advice, guidance and warnings will be provided to the dog’s owner prior to any enforcement action being taken.

2.6 Under the Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015 it is compulsory for all dogs in England over the age of 8 weeks to be fitted with a microchip and the keepers details registered on an approved database. The regulations came into force from 6 April 2016. After this date any dog that comes into the council’s possession will be scanned and if the dog is not microchipped or the keepers details are not up to date the keeper will be served with a Notice giving them 21 days to comply with the Regulations. Failure to comply is a criminal offence and the keeper could be fined up to £500.

2.7 Dangerous dogs and dogs worrying livestock are dealt with by the police and the authority is not required to function as a single point of contact (SPOC) to guide and assist enforcers in the investigation of dog-related allegations of crime.

3.0 Control of stray dogs

3.1 A dog roaming unattended in a public place is deemed to be a ‘stray’ for the purposes of this code and will be ‘seized’ and if necessary ‘detained’ by an authorised officer. Detention of a stray dog will be at our contracted kennels.

3.2 Members of the public who find a stray dog have a duty under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to either return it to its owner or contact the local authority of the area where it was found. Any member of the public who retains possession of such a dog and neither attempts to return it to the owners or contacts the local authority could be accused of theft under the Theft Act 1968.

3.3 On the first occasion that a dog is seized if it is wearing a collar and tag, is microchipped, or if the owner is known to the officer they will attempt to return the dog to them, upon payment of any relevant fees and charges. If the dog does not have identification the officer will make reasonable efforts to identify the owner and return it to them, upon payment of any relevant fees and charges

3.4 A dog will only be returned to its home address if there is someone able to receive it. The dog will not be left in the garden or outbuilding.

3.5 All stray dogs will be thoroughly scanned for a microchip by the officer in order to try to identify their rightful owner. If no microchip is detected whilst on site the dog will be scanned again once at the kennels.

3.6 A dog seized on more than one occasion within a 12-month period may be taken directly to the kennels even if it has identification.

3.7 It is the responsibility of the dog owner to advise that their dog is missing. Detained stray dogs will only be released from the contracted kennels when any costs incurred are paid in full. These costs include a statutory amount in addition to an administrative fee for the seizure and detention of the dog, plus kennelling fees charged at a daily rate. Any charges for necessary veterinary treatment also have to be paid in full.

3.8 The owner may only reclaim the dog provided proof of ownership is given (dog passport, pedigree certificate, microchip certificate, vets bills, family photographs etc.). If inadequate proof is produced the dog will not be released – this is to protect the dog and the owner.

3.9 Any dog seized by the council that is in need of veterinary treatment will be taken at the earliest opportunity to a vet and given treatment to relieve suffering. Any costs incurred will be recovered from the owner, if known.

3.10 Advice, guidance and warnings will be given to owners who are reunited with their dogs (whether kennelled or not) with regard to responsible dog ownership, current legislation regarding dogs and the implications of noncompliance. Notices will be issued as appropriate.

3.11 All dogs returned to their owners, that are not already microchipped or have out of date details registered to the microchip, will be served a Microchipping of Dog Notice giving the owner 21 days to comply.

3.12 If the finder of a stray dog makes a request to the council to keep the dog and the authorised officer is satisfied that the person is a suitable owner for the dog then they may allow the person to keep it. However, they must do so for at least 28 days and if the finder disposes of the dog in that time period they could be liable for prosecution. Legal ownership never transfers to the new owner and the original owner can claim it back at any time.

3.13 All kennelled dogs unclaimed after seven days will be rehomed where possible. Once rehomed, the former owner of the dog has no legal claim for the return of the dog.

3.14 Any dog reported to the council as lost will have their details placed on our lost dog register and any stray picked up will be cross referenced against this register to try to reunite a dog and its owner as soon as possible.

4.0 Unclaimed strays

4.1 Every effort is made to find new homes for stray dogs unclaimed after the statutory seven day period. This work is done on the council’s behalf by our contracted kennels or via an approved partner or other animal rescue organisation.

4.2 Potential new owners have to complete an adoption application form, undergo a home visit and interview to establish their suitability for ownership and the type of dog that matches their home circumstances and environment.

4.3 Dogs are microchipped and if necessary/when possible are neutered as part of the rehoming service.

4.4 All dogs are assessed both behaviourally and physically during their time in the kennels. The contractor will highlight with the council any dog that they considered potentially unsuitable for rehoming and the dog will be referred to a veterinary surgeon for further assessment and advice.

4.5 A dog would only be put to sleep following veterinary advice to relieve suffering or if the dog is not suitable for rehoming due to its temperament. The council will not allow for the euthanisation of any dog unless this criteria is met.

5.0 Education and information

5.1 The council provides advice and guidance on dog legislation and being a responsible dog owner via our website. Consideration will be given to requests made by schools, parishes and community organisations for educational visits and presentations by council staff.

5.2 The Dog Warden patrols the district raising awareness of responsible dog ownership by engaging with dog owners and offering advice, information and giving out poop scoop bags. Bags are also given out at community events, Tikspac dispensers, and are available from council offices.

5.3 The council works in partnership with partner agencies to offer free microchipping for all dogs and issues advice to owners of status breeds and ‘dogs at risk’ e.g. dogs causing a nuisance to the council by repeat straying, constant barking, antisocial behaviour etc.

6.0 Review

6.1 This document is produced having regard to current legislation, centrally issued guidance and best working practice at the time of preparation. Reviews will be carried out as new legislation is implemented, when centrally issued guidance changes or bi-anually.

code approved November 2022

7.0 Council Complaints Procedure

The Dog Warden Service is no different to any other department within Thanet District Council. We want to provide the best possible services for all residents and visitors to the District. Therefore we need to know if there is a problem or if there are specific concerns about our service delivery. Equally we would like to hear from people who are pleased with the service.

Our comments and complaints system operates on three levels:
• Stage 1: Looked into by the relevant service manager and you will receive a response from the Executive Support Unit
• Stage 2: Looked into by a Head of Service or Director and the response will be sent to you from the Executive Support Unit.
• Stage 3: Looked into by Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

There are two separate forms and can be obtained by visiting the Council’s website


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