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Animal problems where you live

This advice applies to Scotland

How to deal with animal problems

If an animal is causing problems, the action you can take will depend on the type of problem and whether you know who is responsible for the animal or not.

If you know who owns the animal, try to contact them first to try to resolve the problem.

If you don’t know who the owner is or haven’t had any success in resolving the problems with them, you can:

  • contact the council environmental health department - particularly for dog fouling and out of control dogs. Find your local council on mygov.scot

  • apply to the Justice of the Peace (JP) court for an order to make the owner of the animal stop it from causing the problem. If the animal has caused significant damage you can claim compensation from the owner at the same time as applying for the order. You don't have to use a solicitor. Contact the clerk at the JP court for further guidance on how to proceed. Find details of your local JP court on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website

  • contact the police if there’s been animal cruelty, a dangerous dog is out of control, or someone has a dangerous animal without a licence. The police are also responsible for helping with lost or stray dogs.

How to report dog fouling

Your local council must clear up dog mess from public pavements. You can usually report dog fouling online. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

It’s an offence for someone in charge of a dog not to remove and dispose of dog poo from public places, like:

  • pavements and roads
  • common passages, closes, courts, stairs, back greens
  • children's play areas
  • recreational or sporting areas.

You're not expected to clear up dog mess if you’re a blind person in charge of a guide dog, or if you have a disability that the dog has been trained to assist with and your disability prevents you from clearing the mess.

Fixed penalty notices for dog poo

Fixed penalty notices for dog fouling can be given by the police or local council environmental wardens.

If you get a fixed penalty notice, you must pay it by the date on the notice, or the fine will go up.

If you don't agree with the fixed penalty and want to argue against it, you can get help from a local Citizens Advice Bureau.

You can also request a hearing to argue your case by following the information on the back of the fixed penalty notice. If you do nothing and don't pay the fine, legal action may be taken against you.

If you have a problem with barking dogs

If your neighbour's dog is making too much noise, there are steps you can take.

If you feel comfortable, you should try and talk to your neighbour about the problem first.

Mediation with your neighbours

If you need help to talk to your neighbours, there might be a mediation scheme run by your local council. You can find your local council on mygov.scot

There may also be a community mediation service run by SACRO in your area.

You can also find mediators through Scottish Mediation. There might be a fee for mediation, depending on the provider. Tell them if you are on a low income, as you might be eligible for a reduced rate. 

Contact your local council

Alternatively, you can contact your local council. It can give your neighbour a noise notice or a fine. More about resolving noise disputes with your neighbours.

If a dog is out of control

Dogs can be dangerous when they get out of control.

If you’re worried about a dangerous dog, or a dog attacks you, you should report it to the police on 101 or contact your local police station.

If there’s an area where dogs are often a problem, you can contact your local council. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

Your local council can:

  • make local laws - to make owners keep dogs on leads in particular areas or ban dogs from places like children's playgrounds
  • give the dog owner a Dog Control Notice (DCN) - this means they have to control their dog, and they might need to muzzle or microchip the dog. If they don't follow the DCN they can be prosecuted.

Dogs worrying sheep

You’re committing an offence if you let your dog worry livestock, like sheep or cows. Worrying includes attacking or chasing in a way that might reasonably be expected to cause injury, suffering or loss.

It’s also an offence to have a dog in a field or enclosure where there are sheep if the dog isn’t on a lead or under close control.

If your dog kills or injures livestock, you may be sued for damages. You may be less liable for any damage done if the livestock strayed onto your land.

If a farmer kills or injures your dog, they may offer as a defence that this was done to protect the livestock.

If you have a guard dog

If you’re using a dog to protect your home or agricultural land you have a responsibility to make sure it’s not out of control in any place, even its own territory.

If you have guard dogs for business premises there should be clear warning notices that there are guard dogs and they should be under the control of a dog handler or securely tethered.

How to report stray dogs and cats

If you find a stray dog, you can report this to your local council environmental department. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

Alternatively, you can contact the police by calling 101 or contacting your local police station. It's an offence to keep a stray without reporting that you have found it. 

If you find a stray cat, you can report it to the SSPCA or Cats Protection.

When are wild animals protected 

Wild animals have protection under the law. They may be protected if they are rare, or because people harm them.

Find out about protected species and non-native animals on the NatureScot website.

What is wildlife crime

Wildlife crime may be committed by people who intentionally break the laws protecting wild animals, but someone may accidentally commit an offence, for example, disturbing a colony of bats.

The Scottish government has published a code of practice on how to act responsibly within the law to ensure that non-native species don’t cause harm to the environment. Failure to comply with the code isn’t an offence, but it could be used in court as evidence in criminal proceedings. The non-native species code of practice is on the Scottish government website.

How to report wildlife crime

You should report wildlife crime to Police Scotland on 101. There's more information on how to report wildlife crime on the NatureScot website.

More help

You can get help from an adviser at your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

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