Dog Warden

Councils employ wardens to deal with stray or dangerous dogs.  They also have the power under the 1996 Dog (Fouling of Land) Act to designate areas as 'no fouling zones', where owners must clean up after their pets.  Some councils also employ enforcement officers to make sure that this is done.  In a small council the two jobs can be combined.  Councils also have a responsibility to inspect and license premises where dogs are bred or cared for.  If any such establishments are in their area, enforcement officers make regular visits to do so.

Work Environment
Dog wardens work outdoors in all weathers. T hey might have to enter some dirty and unpleasant premises.  They wear a uniform and when handling dangerous dogs they wear padded clothing, thick gloves and sometimes a protective mask.  They normally work 37 hours a week; however, a considerable amount of work is done in the evenings and at weekends.

Daily Activities
Dog wardens make regular patrols and also respond to telephone calls or letters from local residents.  If they find or hear about a stray dog they go to collect it in a special van fitted with a grille to keep the dog safely in the back.  If the dog has a nametag they return it to the owner and explain that the dog should not be allowed to stray.  Later they send a letter containing recommendations on proper dog ownership.  If the dog cannot be identified they take it to an animal welfare centre or dogs' home.

They also collect dangerous or abandoned dogs, often working with police or RSPCA officers who need special assistance.  These cases could involve dogs whose owners have died or who have been evicted from their houses.  The dogs may be very upset - and will not recognise that the warden is trying to help!  They can attack fiercely and need very careful handling.  Wardens have been known to find angry pit bull terriers (which it is illegal to possess) in empty flats.  They may have to catch the dog, using a net or special tool known as a 'grasper' - a rigid metal pole with a noose at the end.  They can then push the dog at arm's length into the van and release the noose before closing the door.

They may occasionally have to arrange for dogs to be put down humanely.
Enforcement officers also do regular patrols.  When they see an owner making no attempt to clean up after a dog, they can issue a verbal warning or a ticket for a fine.  They usually try to educate the owner first and use the penalty tickets on a second or subsequent occasion.  They also go to particular areas following complaints that dogs are persistently fouling.  They may have a very good idea of the owner's identity but must use the evidence of their own eyes.  They also write their own letters to dog owners and keep records of their cases.

They also visit all boarding kennels, breeding establishments and pet shops, once every year, to inspect conditions and the way in which dogs are treated.  If they are not satisfied, they can suspend a licence and the premises may not trade until they have reached the required standard.  They may make additional inspection visits if they receive complaints about an establishment from a member of the public.  Some dog wardens produce promotional leaflets and give talks to schools and clubs to encourage people to look after dogs responsibly.

Skills & Abilities
Dog wardens and enforcement officers need:

  • a liking for dogs, plus ability in handling them; 
  • an understanding of dog behaviour;
  • excellent communication skills and tact - as much of their work involves trying to educate animals' owners (they must also know when to be firm);
  • to be able to recognise common conditions such as mange or distemper and know how to handle a dog suffering from them;
  • to be physically fit and agile.

Entry Requirements
There are no specified qualifications. However, a driving licence is required.  Councils recruit people who have suitable experience in working with animals.  Many have worked as dog obedience trainers or dog handlers in the police force or armed services.  Some have trained dogs for other roles - as gun dogs or guide dogs.  People with experience in other forms of investigation or enforcement work or in animal welfare may be accepted.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
A small council might employ one dog warden/enforcement officer.  In a large council there might be two separate posts.

Further Information & Services
Animal Wardens
National Dog Warden Association

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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