Dogs Seized By The Police


There is currently no specific regulation of dog rescues, rehoming organisations or sanctuaries.

In lieu of a specific regulatory framework rescues are subject to an (often confusing) array of legal provisions.

There is also no settled or accepted definition of what it means to rescue, rehabilitate or re-home dogs. ‘Rescue’ encompasses such a wide range of activities, from those coordinating home-from-home rehoming, to those operating multi-site rescue centres. Scotland is the only UK jurisdiction to licence rescues/sanctuaries and organisations who engage in rehoming activities.

This guide is therefore intended to help navigate the legal duties on individuals or organisations who hold themselves out to the public to receive vulnerable dogs on a regular basis, with a view to rehabilitating and either rehoming, or providing long-term care. It provides an outline of legal duties applicable to rescue and rehoming organisations operating in Northern Ireland. Rescues based in Northern Ireland but operating outside of this jurisdiction may need to pay attention to regulation in the other jurisdictions in which they operate.

Dogs seized by the police:

Dogs seized as part of a criminal investigation still belong to their legal owner until a court either orders that ownership has passed or until the case against the initial owners has come to its conclusion (at which point the court will order the dogs be returned to them or be signed over to your organisation at which point you can then rehome them). In some circumstances (for example in complex cases of gang related crime including trafficking) the court may order the dogs to be signed over to your organisation before the outcome of the case has been decided.