Have you ever wondered what it would be like to visit another country with your dog? Would they be more or less accepted than they are here? Today’s guest post by Dee Mason gives you a look inside the pet friendly United Kingdom.
So, you’re coming to the UK for a long stay, maybe because of work, or maybe for good. What do you need to know about being a pet owner while you’re here? Are there different laws that you might unwittingly break? Are there pet-etiquette rules you might not be aware of? Read on for a potted guide to pet ownership … UK style!
A Nation of Animal Lovers
This traditional description of the British people is not inaccurate. Brits are obsessed with their pets, and any hint of animal cruelty or mistreatment is heavily frowned upon. Expect hard stares if you shout at your dog too harshly in public, even if he has just eaten your iPhone. On a serious note, animal lovers in the UK are very vigilant, so you are unlikely to find anything other than help and support for pet-related issues. Brits, by nature, are very willing to help out, particularly if an animal or child needs assistance. Ask away. You won’t wait long for an answer, whether you need a dog sitter or a dog walker, a recommendation for a trustworthy vet or a reliable kennels.
Scoop Your Poop!
In the UK you are now required to pick up after your dog. If you do not you could be fined up to £1000. This law has made streets and parks much safer and more pleasant for everyone, particularly children. It is now second nature to UK dog owners to carry a roll of nappy sacks in their coat pocket when they walk the dog, so don’t feel self-conscious about it. You’d clean up after your child, so why not your dog! The council should provide Dog Bins in areas like parks and beaches, so keep your eyes open.
The British countryside is beautiful and one of the best things about being a dog owner in the UK is enjoying the scenery with your dog. But, be very careful when there are livestock around. It is legal for a farmer to shoot any dog that endangers or chases his animals. It happens extremely rarely, but it is good to know the law. Dogs chasing sheep may look like a game, but the stress can cause sheep to miscarry their lambs, and farmers take a very dim view of dog owners who can’t control their pets. My rule of thumb is to put my dog on a lead as soon as I see farm animals. That way you can both go and say hello safely!
Parks and Beaches
Check to see if it is permitted to walk your dog in the park, or let them run free on the beach. Different councils have different policies about whether or not dogs can be allowed off the lead. It should be clearly indicated at the entrance of a park. And do learn which beaches are safe for your dog to swim from too. There is a flag warning system that should alert you to dangerous currents. Dogs can be swept away at sea, as well as humans!
Stray dogs are the responsibility of the local council, most of whom will have a dog warden. They are not a twenty-four hour service however. If you lose your dog whilst on a walk the best advice is to contact the council, the local police and the RSPCA. Ringing round local vets is worth trying too. It’s horrible to lose a dog, so act quickly. If he does not turn up within a day put up posters on the walk route. Make sure you check that your dog has not returned home while you have been out looking (as happened to me!). A bowl of water by the front door and some biscuits left out for him would be a nice welcome home.
This is not a legal requirement in the UK yet, but it is very common practice amongst dog owners. If your moving company loses your pet’s health record in transit, don’t worry. If you’ve had your dog chipped before you leave the US he will be totally covered, and not just with regard to health record details. The first thing a vet or rescue centre will do with a lost dog is scan it for a chip, so if you do lose your dog you have every chance of retrieving him safely.
If all this sounds a bit alarmist, then please don’t be concerned. The UK is one of the most dog-centric cultures in the world. They invented the Kennel Club and host Crufts, the most prestigious dog show in the world. Dog ownership is steeped in history, as any glance around the paintings in our stately homes will show. Dogs feature in many of them, showing their owners’ pride in ownership. You will be hard pressed to find anyone in the UK who doesn’t like dogs. So get out into the countryside, enjoy the views, have your bags handy and make sure your dog is chipped. That is really the only advice you need, and with these precautions taken you can enjoy dog ownership in the UK as much as in any country in the world.
Dee Mason is a dog lover and free-lance writer.
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