In short: yes.
All information in this article is up to date as of 2020, but the UK laws around pet tags have been clear since 1992, when The Control of Dogs Order established that;
“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.”
Put simply, this means that if you’re in a public place with your dog, he must have a collar and a tag that clearly shows your name and address. It’s also a good idea to add a contact number too, as it may be quicker for someone to contact you this way.
Pet tag law UK exemptions
There are certain exemptions to this law. Sporting and working dogs can go without in certain circumstances, more information regarding this can be found on the government website here, which details the official legislation: www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1992/901/article/2/made. This includes guide dogs, packs of hounds, sheep and cattle dogs, and many others where a tag may not be appropriate or a collar could pose a risk.
For pet dogs and working dogs that are off duty, however, having a tag with contact details and clear ownership is a must. The required information can fit even on our smallest tags, as it’s easy to be concise with just three lines of text. For example:
HOUSE NUMBER AND POSTCODE
Some people also choose to have their dog’s name on the other side of the tag, but this is not a legal requirement. It is also sometimes advised not to do this, as unfortunately dog thieves may be able to use the name to encourage the dog to respond to them, and therefore deceive unsuspecting new owners when they sell them on.
Does my dog still need a tag if he is microchipped?
Yes, your dog still needs a collar and tag as well as a microchip. It has been the law since 2016 (2012 in Northern Ireland) that all dogs are microchipped when they are eight weeks old. Neglecting to do this could result in a fine of £500. However this is in addition to the tag law established in 1992, so your dog must have both a microchip and a tag.
Microchips are brilliant at identifying lost dogs, but they need specialised equipment usually found at the vets to scan them and match a unique code to the national database. This is excellent at identifying dogs that have been lost without a collar or even stolen, but can slow the process of reuniting the dog with the owner compared to checking the details on a tag. A dog with up to date details on his tag is likely to find his way home quicker than one without!