Ask an Agent / Do you Need a Model Release for Dogs?

Ask an Agent is a regular monthly feature answering your questions about the business of photography– the photography industry’s first Agony Aunt! If you have any questions you’d like to ask a photographers agent please send them to Questions can be on anything to do with the photography business, such as photoshoots, marketing, professional practice, pricing, contracts, legal stuff – anything.

Hi Ask an Agent,

I have a question for you. I’ve got a shoot coming up for a design agency and they would like a dog in one of the images. I thought I might use a friend's dog so I was wondering, do I need to get a model release?

Anna-Eva Brownlees


© Julian Calverley / Skoda

Thanks for your question. You don’t need to get a model release form signed for a dog as you would need to for a person. Different laws apply to portraying animals in commercial photography as they do people. If you use a person in an ad and they don’t want to be associated with a product for example, that person might have a claim.

There are two main types of releases, a model release and a property release. If you need to get any kind of release signed it would be a property release. The CAP Code is a set of advertising rules enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority, and if you have a read of section 6.1 the section on Privacy it makes reference to the fact that you should get written permission if you are portraying someone’s identifiable possession. A dog could in some cases be an identifiable possession and therefore it would be sensible to get a property release signed.

Just to clarify, a release is most likely to be required if the image is going to be used commercially. So anything used to endorse a product or a service for example. Basically, it needs to state that the other party gives you permission to use their image or an image of their dog/property. It should state that they have received some sort of compensation (which I’m assuming is the case) and detail how the image will be used - for example- Trade press ads, online usage, 3 years, worldwide. You might want to also include usage for your own self-promotion or even the possibility that you might sell the image on in the future and want to use it with no restrictions. Then sign and date it, and give your friend a copy too.


© Patrick Harrison / Dew Gibbons

Even if you don’t get an official release form signed, make sure you have all these facts in written communication somewhere and keep hold of this. It might be in an email trail or you could give your friend all the details to include on their invoice to you for the use of the dog. Their invoice will be evidence of the agreement you have. If for some reason the images are then used above and beyond what was agreed, contract law may come into the equation, as you could be in breach of contract.

Aside from this, it is always wise to make it clear on your estimate and final invoice to your client, whose responsibility it is to get permission for anything featured in the photography.

So my advice is - get everything in writing, whether in the form of a property release or in other ‘paperwork’. Then you will relinquish yourself from further claims and remove every element of doubt.

I’d like to thank lawyer supremo, and LPA regular legal advisor, Charles Swan of Swan Turton LLP for his advice on this.

Charles mentioned that he feel he spends half his life advising people to ‘get it in writing’ Fair enough, it is very good advice!

Whether you’re a creative director or a student, a photographer or a designer, an art buyer or an assistant, if you have any questions you’d like to ask a photographers agent please send them to and we’ll answer as many as we can!

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This advice should be taken as a guide only.

Lisa Pritchard, LPA and guest bloggers take no responsibility for any omissions or errors.

The images used in this article are for illustrative purposes only and do not necessarily correlate with specific facts or examples cited in the text.

Please seek professional legal advice should you require it.