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Enforcement powers for irresponsible dog owners

A Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) means we can fine irresponsible dog owners.

Icon for pdf Public Space Protection Order video transcript (PDF, 116.0kb)

Background information

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 brought in PSPOs. The original order came in in 2017 and from June 2023 it has been extended to include wider legislation to:

  • help create safe and welcoming play areas and green spaces 
  • reduce the number of stray dogs
  • enable authorised staff to request dogs are put on leads when necessary
  • tackle dog fouling issues
  • Reduce the amount of dogs, walkers can safely take out at any one time.

What does the updated  PSPO mean for dog owners?

It is an offence in County Durham if you:

  • allow a dog to foul without picking it up 
  • allow a dog to stray (ie allow a dog to wander/roam loose/exercise without a responsible owner)
  • fail to put a dog on a lead when asked to do so by an authorised person (council staff, neighbourhood wardens or Durham Constabulary police officer)
  • Walk more than six dogs together at any one time
  • allow dogs in designated fenced off fixed play areas (ie dogs are not allowed in specified areas where slides, swings and/or climbing equipment is contained by a fence). Fenced off play sites affected by the PSPO will display a sign advising that dogs are not allowed in. 
  • Allow dogs in multi-use-games-areas and sports pitches
  • Allow dogs in cemeteries and graveyards 

Fenced off play areas where dogs are not allowed


Neighbourhood wardens, trained council staff and Durham Constabulary will have the power to issue a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) of £100 for breaching any aspect of the PSPO. The FPN is reduced to £60 if paid within ten working days.

If the FPN is not paid, you will be taken to Court and prosecuted. The maximum fine is £1,000.


The PSPO does not apply to a person who is registered as blind, or is disabled or who uses a trained assistance dog. 


As well as the dog control powers included in the PSPO, other dog control arrangements may apply in parks, such as Hardwick ParkWharton Park and Chester-le-Street Riverside Park.

More information

A Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) exists under the Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014, powers which replaced the old Dog Control Orders.

The aim is to reduce the number of dog fouling incidents in County Durham and reduce the number of strays. This improves local communities, health and wellbeing.

We carried out an initial consultation in 2017 and then another in 2023 and the public were shown to widely support the expansion of the order. Responses highlighted plans to ban dogs from an area of Slope Beach in Seaham were not supported and therefore this was not taken forward within the new extension. 

Authorised officers both from the police and council can enforce the rules. 

When would we prosecute rather than a fine? Prosecution might be appropriate for repeat offenders, or if the offence is so serious that it merits prosecution. For example: a dog owner that allows their dog to be dangerously out of control, despite being directed by an officer to put it on a lead, may risk prosecution, rather than being issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice. Failure to pay the Fixed Penalty Notice would result in prosecution. 

Dogs are asked to be kept on a lead to enable fouling to be spotted and for safety reasons. It's very important that sports areas and children's play areas, as well as areas where people may be visiting to pay their respects, are kept safe and clean. 

Stray dogs 

If a dog is found straying and is collected by a council neighbourhood warden, the dog will be scanned to check for a microchip. If the dog is chipped and the details are up-to-date, the dog will be returned to its owner by the neighbourhood warden. From April 2016, it became law that all dogs must be microchipped. 

If we find the dog owner within seven days, the owner will need to collect the dog from Stray Aid, East Pasture Farm, Durham, DH6 4EL. Education advice will be provided explaining responsible dog ownership, the law requiring the dog is microchipped and the PSPO offences should they allow the dog to stray again. A £100 Fixed Penalty Notice may be issued for allowing the dog to stray. Failure to pay the Fixed Penalty Notice will lead to prosecution. 

After seven days, the dog ownership will change to ourselves and then onto Stray Aid. It is therefore very important to get your dog microchipped and ensure the chip details are up-to-date on an approved chip database so the dog can be returned to its rightful owner.

Assistance dogs

The PSPO does not apply to a person who is registered as blind or to disabled persons who uses a trained assistance dog.

#FollowOurLead campaign

Our #FollowOurLead campaign involves our Civic Pride team and Neighbourhood wardens educating and engaging with dog owners to promote responsible dog ownership across the county. Download our  Icon for pdf #FollowOurLead educational postcard (PDF, 313.9kb)  and  Icon for pdf #FollowOurLead educational poster (PDF, 448.7kb)  for further details.

Report a dog issue

Dangerous dogs or emergency dog situations should be reported directly to the Police. Call 999.


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