Is it illegal to walk a dog without a name tag? (UK)

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What is the law regarding dog tags in the UK?

Here’s the actual wording from the control of dogs order 1992 legislation;

2.—(1) Subject to paragraph (2) below, every dog while in a highway or in a place of public resort shall wear a collar with the name and address of the owner inscribed on the collar or on a plate or badge attached to it.

(And paragraph 2 lists all the exemptions which include packs of hounds, sporting, hunting and farming dogs at work, military and police dogs and registered guide dogs.)

That’s it. Name and address of the owner. Not even the dog’s name, which is a common misconception. It also states the tag must be on a collar, so no, having one on a harness instead won’t satisfy the law. So Is it illegal to walk a dog without a name tag? Yes.

So whilst the dog tag law in the UK is fairly simple, official dog tags don’t help dog walkers at all. In fact, unless the owner chooses to put their phone number on the tag, it doesn’t really help the owner either. 

microchip image

Can dogs be microchipped instead of wearing a tag?

Compulsory microchipping came into force in 2016 under the Microchipping of dogs regulations 2015. This new legislation did not replace the Control of dogs order 1992 and therefore both sets of rules are law.

Does anyone really get prosecuted though?

This guy did in November 2021: Dog owner fined hundreds of pounds for breaking obvious rule – Liverpool Echo

This woman did in January 2022: Dog owner faces £820 bill for failure to register pet’s microchip | Swindon Advertiser

Is it illegal to walk a dog without a name tag?

Should the tag have the owner’s details or mine?

To be lawful, the dog’s tag should have the owner’s name and address on it.

To be of any use to a dog walker they need to have yours on them. Many professional dog walkers will have tags made up to clip on and off with their own phone numbers.

If you ‘misplace’ a dog on a walk and someone finds it the first person you want them to call is you. Firstly because you’ll be the closest person to collect the dog (you are, after all, walking the dog because the owner is busy/working)

Secondly, you really want to reduce any worry for the owner when, 9 times out of ten, the dog is literally a minute or two away from you further up the path or across the other side of the park. 

What should I put on the tags?

That’s entirely up to you as it’s an additional tag and there aren’t any laws to follow, but as a bare minimum, it should have your own phone number. The aim is for whoever finds the dog to call you as soon as possible.

Most dog walkers have something like: I’m out with my dog walker, if found, please call 077XX XXXXXX, thank you.

When purchasing tags try and choose a size and colour that’s going to be easily seen and seen first if someone looks at the dog’s collar looking for details. This will steer people towards calling the details on your tag rather than the owners. It also makes it easy to spot on the ground if it falls off. Most walkers also replace the usual split ring they come with for an easier on/off clip, either a carabiner or s-biner

Some people prefer to have their own collars that they put on the dogs they’re walking as extras, either with tags already attached or with telephone numbers and details embroidered onto the collar. I’m not convinced any ‘finder’ would necessarily think to look at the collar itself, but go straight for a tag. 

If you’re looking for tags or collars, these are three of the most commonly mentioned suppliers on online forums which people seem happy with. Let me know in the comments if you’ve used a supplier you’re happy with.

Pet Tags


Tuffstuff Ltd.

a dog standing in the road appearing lost

What’s the law if you find a dog?

Stray dog laws are found under the Environmental protection act 1990 and states that: (1) Any person  (in this section referred to as “the finder”) who takes possession of a stray dog shall forthwith either – (a) return the dog to its owner; or take the dog to the officer of the local authority for the area in which the dog was found.

If the finder doesn’t do this and decides to keep the dog or fails to return the dog to its owner or notify the local authority, they are committing theft under the Theft Act 1968.

Now that we have microchips, by far the fastest way to get a lost dog back to its owner is to pop into a vet and have the dog scanned. The vet will have access to the database and call the details on the database. You will not only be complying with the law (returning the dog to its owner) but you will also have saved them the fee payable at the local pound in order to release their lost dog to them.

Note that if, as a pet professional, you were thinking of buying a scanner, they will tell you if a dog is chipped, and the chip number but they do not give you the owner’s details. You’ll still have to contact an approved organisation that has access to the database and can call the registered owner. 

four dogs behind bars

What if the local council has my lost dog?

If a dog that you were walking is lost on a walk and ends up in the local authority pound they are more likely to call the owner after scanning the dog first, and then they’ll call you. It’s tempting to try and keep the fact that you’ve lost a dog on your walk quiet and hope you’ll find the dog before the owner finds out, but honesty is the best policy.

If the first the owner hears about it is from the dog warden and not you, then you’re going to have an unhappy client and one who may have lost their trust in you.

When a local authority takes in a stray, they charge a fee to release the dog back to the owner. If the dog has been lost on your walk, no matter the circumstances, the right thing to do in these circumstances would be to pay the fee yourself.

If the owner is understanding and continues to employ you then you could offer an equivalent number of free walks up to the cost of the fee.


Losing a dog on a walk is rare. But being proactive with your own tags (and never believing an owner when they say their dog has good recall, always test, use a longline etc.), paying attention to all your dogs on walks (callback the missed call once all the dogs are loaded safely back in your vehicle after the walk) and being calm, honest and having a plan when you do lose a dog is best practice.

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