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Out of Control Dogs

This page provides information on the legal requirements of dog owners to keep their animals under control and the sanctions available to authorities in dealing with out of control dogs.

Please note that any incidents involving a dog biting attack or serious injury on a person or another animal should be referred to Police Scotland for initial investigation. West Lothian Council will consider other incidents involving a dog being out of control which gives rise to reasonable alarm or apprehension for the safety of a person or another animal. For further information see below.

Do dogs have to be kept on a lead?

The law says that dogs must be kept under close 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.

'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 necessarily mean that the dog has acted in an aggressive manner. However, the legislation relates to when a dog's behaviour give rise to alarm, or apprehensiveness, which are reasonable in the circumstances.

All incidents involving dog bites on people, serious injury to another animal, or dangerous dogs must be reported to the Police for initial investigation. Where appropriate our officers can provide assistance to the Police in dealing with such incidents, but we will only take referrals directly from the Police. Other types of dog control concerns can be reported directly to our service.

For more information, see below.

Dealing with out of control dogs

The local authority can investigate concerns brought to our attention if we have the following information.

  • Details of where and when the incident took place (date and time).
  • Details of the dog(s) owner, - address, and name (if possible).
  • Details of dog(s) involved in incident (description, breed if known).

We can only follow up concerns with the dog owner if we are provided with this information. We will require you to complete a more detailed statement regarding the incident. We will also request a statement from the owner of the dog(s) involved.

If there is reasonable evidence from the statements received that the dog(s) has been out of control in terms of the legislation, then we will issue an appropriate warning to the dog owner. This will outline steps the dog owner should take to prevent further incidents.

The responsibility for ensuring the control of any dog remains with the owner at all times.