Police reminder: keep dog on a leash outside population centres as of 1 March

Publication date 16.2.2023 11.03
News item

The Police would like to remind dog owners that during the period from 1 March to 19 August dogs must be kept on a leash as provided by the Hunting Act. The objective of the provision is to protect the undisturbed breeding and nesting of natural animals.

According to Chief Superintendent Kai Vepsäläinen of the Police Board, the Police has been contacted, especially last year, by concerned parties who suggest that not all dog owners are aware of the provisions that obligate to keep the dog on a leash.  

- Some owners let the dogs run free in forests and fields during the restriction periods. Dogs running free may cause disturbance and damages if they chase nesting birds or breeding mammals, Chief Superintendent Vepsäläinen points out.

The Police responsibilities include the controls both under the Animal Welfare Act and the Hunting Act.

Fine or fixed petty fine for dogs running free

The Hunting Act prescribes that from 1 March to19 August, also outside population centres, a dog of over five months of age shall be kept on a leash or so that it may be immediately put on a leash. The latter part of the sentence means that the dog does not detach itself far from the owner and will return immediately upon the owner’s call if the situation changes abruptly. 

The dog may be kept free only in the courtyard, garden or a fenced area intended for the purpose.

According to the Public Order Act, the dog must always be on a leash in a population centre. The dogs can only be kept free in dog parks, dog training areas and closed courtyards. Even in these places, the dog must be supervised and controlled by its owner or holder. 

- If the dog owner breaks these rules, they may be fined for the violation of the Hunting Act provisions. In population centres, the petty fine can be imposed for breach of the Public Order Act, Chief Superintendent Vepsäläinen adds.

Most of the related tasks are taken care by the Police on the spot or when the owner comes to pick up their dog, by issuing a fine or petty fine order. Based on the Hunting Act or the Animal Welfare Act, the Police also takes temporary custody of several dogs annually, sent to dog boarding kennels. 

- Often these are dogs that run loose repeatedly, with the owners not seeing to their responsibilities to a sufficient extent, he says.

If the dog owner repeatedly neglects to keep the dog on a leash and repeatedly lets the dog run free, the animal protection authorities also have the opportunity to impound the dog under the Animal Welfare Act and keep it until the case has been clarified in detail. 

Dog owners should know the provisions

According to Chief Superintendent Vepsäläinen, the majority of dog owners are aware of the respective legislation and keep the dog on a leash as required by the provisions.

- However, the Police hopes that all dog owners read the orders related to the keeping the dog tied up, and respect the provisions. This can also prevent any conflicts between dog owners and other people as well avoid mutual aggravations, Chief Superintendent Vepsäläinen adds. 

Many dogs acquired during Covid-19 years

According to an estimate made by Statistics Finland in 2018, there are about 700 000 dogs in Finland.  The number of dogs registered by the Finnish Kennel Club grew during the Covid-19 years, and the Club estimates that many of those who acquired a dog are new in dog keeping.

According to Chief Superintendent Vepsäläinen it is possible that not all dog owners have updated information on the legislative obligations related to dog ownership. The provisions related to keeping the dog on a leash are contained both in the Hunting Act (615/1993) and the Public Order Act (612/2003).   

However, there are certain exceptions that relate to the obligation to keep the dog on a leash. Please refer to the site of the Finnish Kennel Club to have more detailed instructions related to the exceptions.


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