The Dog Ownership Licence – Society’s Bark for Its Reintroduction

dog ownership licence

A recent survey from YouGov (Jan, 2023) asked UK residents about their opinions on the reintroduction of dog licences throughout the UK. 

The results of the survey showed intriguing responses for those who are strongly in favour of dog licences, especially for those who are old enough to remember the last time dog ownership licences were required in the UK. 

There are many arguments for and against the reinstatement of licences which will be explored throughout, but how would the government actually go about enforcing and regulating any such changes? 

When did dog Ownership licences stop in England, Scotland and Wales? 

The government abolished the need for dog licences in 1987, however they’re still a legal requirement in Northern Ireland. In fact, there are still severe penalties for owners without licences in Northern Ireland, with fines up to £1,000. 

The original licence was brought to the British public in 1867, it lasted for just over 120 years and was usually a simple piece of paper that nobody ever really asked to see. Speaking to my parents about this, they recall most of the dog owners they knew never even bothered to buy one. 

Here’s one from 1906 – credit from the BBC.

So, it became a bit of a joke and as such was abolished. 

But with changes in public attitudes towards animal welfare, popularity of dog ownership increasing, dogs in shelters increasing and unfortunately the occasional dog attack, there appears to be a new appetite to reintroduce the licence. 

Some speculate that this licence could cost anywhere from  £100 to £1,000. Perhaps this isn’t unreasonable, it offers new funding potential for important charities such as the RSPCA, it also makes owners think twice before committing to responsible ownership. 

But any such move is likely to be unpopular with voters if guidelines are not transparent on where the licence fee is going. Will it be given to shelters and important animal welfare charities? Will it be given to police and local authorities to warden? What will happen to animals that don’t have a licence? 

Diving Into the YouGov Survey Data

As the debate over the re-introduction of dog ownership licences continues, recent data suggests that a significant portion of adults are indeed supportive of this idea.

According to the survey conducted, a resounding 45% of respondents strongly support the idea, implying a clear approval for stricter control over dog ownership. This reflects a substantial part of the population who believe that owning a dog should be a carefully considered responsibility, and not just a whimsical decision.

Further, an additional 31% of respondents indicated that they somewhat support the re-introduction of dog ownership licences. While they may not be as passionate or determined as the first group, this considerable portion of the population still appreciates the notion of dog ownership being more regulated than it is currently.

In stark contrast, only a small minority of participants expressed opposition to the idea. Just 6% somewhat oppose the re-introduction, while an even smaller percentage, 5%, strongly oppose it. These individuals represent a relatively marginal segment of society that believes in less regulation around dog ownership.

Surprisingly, a noteworthy 14% of respondents remain uncertain, indicating they don’t know their stance on the matter. This suggests that further public education and discussion may be needed to help these individuals form an informed opinion on the issue.

Overall, these figures highlight a notable societal lean towards the re-introduction of dog ownership licences in the UK. A vast majority of people appear to value the idea of more regulated and responsible dog ownership. However, as the conversation around this topic expands, it will be interesting to see if and how these numbers change.

Ultimately, the question we must all ponder is – is the love for our canine companions enough, or should we also be legally obligated to prove our competence to care for them? It’s a divisive question, but with such strong support for licensing, it may well become the new norm in the world of dog ownership.

Adding to our initial insights, it’s fascinating to observe how support for the re-introduction of dog ownership licences varies across different regions.

In London, the ‘strong support’ is slightly less fervent compared to the overall average, coming in at 38%. Despite this slight dip, the capital shows a higher percentage of ‘somewhat support’ at 34%, slightly higher than the overall average, indicating that support for dog licensing in the city is still considerable.

The ‘rest of the South’ mirrors the national averages quite closely, with 44% strongly supporting and 31% somewhat supporting the re-introduction. The ‘Midlands and Wales’ region presents a slightly stronger favour for the idea, with a high of 48% strongly supporting the proposition.

Up North, the numbers suggest the strongest support overall, with a whopping 50% of respondents strongly supporting the idea of dog ownership licences. This could indicate a strong sentiment in the region for increased regulation and control over dog ownership.

Scotland presents a similar picture, with high support and low opposition to the idea. Notably, the ‘somewhat oppose’ and ‘strongly oppose’ figures are lower here at 4% and 3% respectively, hinting at a broad societal acceptance of this initiative in Scotland.

On the ‘don’t know’ front, London has the highest percentage of undecided respondents at 19%, suggesting a need for more conversation and education on this matter within the city.

In summary, the overall national sentiment supporting the re-introduction of dog ownership licences is reflected across various regions, although with some variations. This detailed regional breakdown paints a compelling picture of a society leaning towards a more regulated dog ownership framework. It remains to be seen how these figures may translate into policy in the different areas of the UK.

Diving even deeper into the data, there’s a fascinating age-based split in the support for the reintroduction of dog ownership licences.

The younger age group of 18-24-year-olds stands out for its relatively low ‘strong support’ at just 18%, almost half the overall average. However, this group also shows the highest percentage of ‘don’t know’ at a notable 33%, suggesting a need for better awareness or understanding of the issue among younger individuals. 

The 25-49 age bracket sees a sharp rise in ‘strong support’ for dog ownership licences to 38%, more in line with the national average. This group also demonstrates a reduced ‘don’t know’ percentage, indicating more definitive opinions as individuals age.

As we move to the older demographics, the support becomes more resolute. The 50-64 and 65+ age groups show the strongest support at 57%, well above the overall average. These age groups also feature the lowest ‘don’t know’ percentages at just 6%, indicating a high level of certainty and understanding of the issue. This is likely due to this age group having the privilege of remembering a time where dog licences were common in the UK, during previous decades. 

The ‘strong opposition’ is relatively consistent across all age groups, suggesting that this minority opinion is not particularly tied to age.

In conclusion, while support for the reintroduction of dog ownership licences seems to increase with age, there is a clear need to engage younger individuals in the conversation. This, in turn, could help shape a more balanced and informed societal view on the matter. 

It’s no secret that pet ownership spiked during the Covid-19 pandemic. This led to many dog owners lacking the skills and knowledge to effectively care for their dog, unfortunately leading to more dogs in shelters. The re-introduction of a dog licence, even if easy to obtain, may serve as a consideration buffer to give future potential owners the chance to carefully think through their decisions. 

The benefits of reintroducing the dog ownership licence

  1. Responsible Ownership: Licensing could encourage owners to be more responsible. It could serve as a reminder that pet ownership is not just about enjoyment, but also involves significant responsibilities.
  2. Pet Safety: Licensing often requires owners to provide proof of vaccinations, helping ensure dogs are properly immunised and reducing the spread of diseases.
  3. Identification: If a licensed dog is lost or stolen, the licence can make it easier to identify and return the dog to its owner.
  4. Population Control: Licensing could include mandatory spaying/neutering policies, or at least provide discounts for those who choose to do so, helping control the pet population and reduce the number of unwanted dogs. It may also present another barrier to illegal puppy mills. 
  5. Funding for Animal Services: Fees from dog licences can provide a source of revenue to help fund local animal control agencies, shelters, and other pet-related services.
  6. Education and Training: Licensing could potentially include mandatory basic training for dogs and education for owners, leading to better behaved dogs and more knowledgeable owners.
  7. Animal Abuse Prevention: The licensing process could include background checks to prevent those with histories of animal abuse from owning pets.
  8. Support Local Laws: It gives local authorities a tool to ensure that pet owners are in compliance with local laws, such as leash laws or waste disposal requirements.

While these are all compelling reasons for reintroducing dog licences, it’s important to also consider potential downsides or challenges, such as enforcement difficulties, the financial burden for some pet owners, or potential resistance from those who see licensing as an infringement on personal freedom. Not to mention, we’re in the middle of a cost of living crisis.

The potential negatives of re-introducing dog ownership licences

  1. Financial Burden: Licensing fees could present a financial hardship for some individuals and families, potentially leading to fewer dogs being adopted from shelters.
  2. Inequality: A flat fee for licensing could disproportionately affect people with lower income, creating an unfair barrier to dog ownership.
  3. Bureaucracy and Inefficiency: The process of implementing and managing a licensing system could be bureaucratic, time-consuming, and inefficient. This could detract resources from other important animal welfare initiatives.
  4. Non-compliance and Enforcement Issues: Depending on the enforcement measures in place, some owners may simply choose not to licence their dogs, leading to problems with non-compliance. Moreover, enforcement could be difficult, expensive, and potentially intrusive.
  5. Privacy Concerns: Some dog owners might be uncomfortable with the idea of being on a government registry or might fear misuse of their information.
  6. Potential for Unintended Consequences: For example, if penalties for non-compliance are too harsh, it could lead to more dogs being surrendered to shelters or abandoned.
  7. Ineffectiveness: Critics may argue that a licence doesn’t necessarily guarantee responsible ownership, and resources would be better spent on education and promoting voluntary responsible pet ownership practices.

While these are potential arguments against reintroducing a dog ownership licence, they do not negate the potential benefits. Policymakers would need to carefully consider both sides to develop a balanced and effective approach.

Are we in favour of dog ownership licences or not? 

It’s very difficult to give a definitive view on this, much depends on the pricing structure and negating any inequalities that may occur when structuring the policy. We’d love to see more funding for local shelters and welfare support which this could help achieve, we also advocate for responsible dog ownership at every turn, that’s what we’re about. 

Let’s also not forget, it’s no secret that pet ownership spiked during the Covid-19 pandemic. This led to many dog owners lacking the skills and knowledge to effectively care for their dog, unfortunately leading to more dogs in shelters. The re-introduction of a dog licence, even if easy to obtain, may serve as a consideration buffer to give future potential owners the chance to carefully think through their decisions. 

For those of you in favour of the reintroduction of dog ownership licences, you can sign the petition here on 

Whether you’re for or against the re-introduction, we’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts below! 

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