May issue

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Monday, 16 May 2011

When and where should dogs be on leads?

I was wondering if anyone can help me out?

I live in Surrey, and in the area of which I live, there is a family who lives opposite us who own a large German Shepherd, a breed many people find intimidating because of their size.

Now, the problem is the owner leaves the dog in the back garden all day, everyday, and when he comes home from work, the dog is really pleased to see him. The owner though opens the side gate, and basically lets the dog run around the street, roaming in people’s gardens and run down the road, regardless of traffic. Later in the evening about 10pm, you can see the owner sitting outside, watching the dog run around with no lead. My Grandad came home from work the other night and the dog nearly knocked him over as it was dark and it is difficult to see the dog. I have reported this to the dog warden and to the RSPCA and they think it is perfectly ok to let this dog run riot. The advice they gave was that we could give the owner a few tips, but that was it.

We feel very strongly that it could be an accident waiting to happen as it could give out the wrong vibes around the area, giving neighbours the idea that they can do the same to all dog owners. I thought the RSPCA was there to protect the welfare of an animal. In America and Canada they have to be on leashes at all times regardless. I used to breed German Shepherds and although I kept them on leads people would still cross the road because they were scared of the dog.

Can anyone advise who is right or wrong?

John, by email

Lisa Richards, scientific officer from the RSPCA’s companion
animals department commented...

"The RSPCA appreciates the importance of exercise for dogs, as it is
not only important in providing physical activity/locomotion for a dog,
it also provides opportunities for toileting, investigation, exploration
and interaction with people and other dogs.

"However, the Society also believes that dogs should be kept under
control and not allowed to stray. Irresponsible dog ownership, whether
it is allowing dogs to stray, be dangerously out of control or
indiscriminately breeding them, causes significant problems for the
safety and welfare of both humans and animals."

Piers Claughton, senior local government advisor at the RSPCA, added...

"It is an understandable misconception that the RSPCA is responsible
for picking up straying dogs, regardless of whether they have strayed
accidentally or are simply what are generally regarded as ‘latch-key
dogs’ being let out roam for a period of time.

"Stray dogs is the sole and statutory responsibility of local
authorities. Given that this is one of the few animal issues that the
RSPCA is not the main responder for, it is important that the local
authorities fulfil their obligation.

"If someone is concerned that a dog is dangerously out of control in a
public place, they should contact the police, who are responsible for
dog control.

"It is wrong to focus on this example purely because somebody considers
a German Shepherd an intimidating breed. The focus instead needs to be
on the owner and ensuring they are looking after their pet


  1. It is against the law (the Road Traffic Act to have a dog near or on a road without a lead. I'm not sure that all dog wardens know all the laws about dogs, so you could check out the law I mention and get back to them - or the local Community Police as they may be interested to have a chat with the owner.

  2. How sad for the dog and distressing for you. The owner is clearly breaking the law [Road traffic Act] and I am amazed that you have been asked to approach the owner yourself as this could put you at risk of abuse. The local council should send a Dog Warden or Community Warden to educate the owner!