Before you begin accepting dogs, it’s important to put together a comprehensive dog policy for your hostel and make sure a copy is given to dog owners when they move in. Dogs Trust has put together a sample dog policy which outlines the main considerations you should take into account. You can adapt these to your own service. If you'd like more support putting together a comprehensive policy, please get in contact with the Hope Project team.
Some of the points to consider when putting together your own dog policy are:
Dangerous Dogs – Under the Dangerous Dogs Act, it is a criminal offence for anyone to have possession of certain types of dog, including the Pit Bull Terrier. The only Pit Bull Terriers that can be legally owned are pit bull terriers that are registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs.
If you have a resident who owns a dog registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs, you should check that they are fully complying with the conditions of the act before you allow them to move into your hostel. Dogs registered on the Index must be neutered, microchipped, tattooed and kept on a lead and muzzled at all times when in public. The owner also needs to have public liability insurance for the dog and ownership of the dog can never be sold or given away to anyone else.
The Act also makes it a criminal offence to allow any dog to be dangerously out of control. This includes instances where there is simply a fear that an injury may occur.
For more information on the DDA and the other laws that apply to dog owners, please see our Animals & the Law section.
Muzzling dogs – Dogs that show signs of aggression towards people or other dogs should be muzzled and kept on a lead while in communal areas of your hostel. However, Dogs Trust does not recommend that you introduce a muzzling policy for all dogs in your hostel.
If a dog is showing signs of aggression and is required to wear a muzzle, please contact Dogs Trust for advice on a safe way to introduce a muzzle using reward-based training.
Barking – All dogs bark but some dogs may bark excessively, especially when left alone. There are a number of reasons why dogs bark, including fear, separation anxiety, boredom and to get attention.
Dogs Trust recommends that dogs are not left alone for more than a few hours at a time. If a resident does need to leave their dog for a short time, talk to them about things they can do to ensure their dog is not bored, such as leaving them with toys and food activity balls. Please see our Beating Boredom fact sheet for further hints and tips.
If a dog in your hostel is barking excessively and causing a nuisance to staff or other residents, the owner would need to take steps to find the cause of the problem and to work on a solution. Speak to a vet or dog behaviourist. Dogs Trust also provides further information in our Barking fact sheet.
Working and training – If a resident with a dog begins work or training you will need to consider what will happen to their dog while they are out. Dogs Trust recommends that dogs are not left home alone for more than a couple of hours at a time. If a dog owner will be away from their dog for more than a few hours, measures will need to be put in place for the dog.
It’s advisable to arrange for someone to take the dog out for a walk and to toilet. This could be a member of staff or another resident who the owner trusts. If the owner is working, they may consider paying for a dog walker.
If the dog will be left alone in the resident’s room, it’s a good idea to provide a distraction for them while their owner is out. This can prevent problems such as destructive behaviour and separation anxiety. For more information, read our Dogs Trust fact sheets on Beating Boredom and Coping Alone.