Dog Owner Landing Page:



Multiple pieces of legislation apply to dog owners in Northern Ireland. This guide will help you understand your responsibilities, but it is not to be considered legal advice. The information below applies to Northern Ireland only. The rules may be different in the Republic of Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland.


Click on the Links Below to find the information you need:


Animal Welfare

Breeding Dogs

Dog Control Conditions

Dog Control Orders

Dog Fighting

Dog Fouling

Dog Kennels and Home Boarding

Dog Licenses

Driving with my Dog

Ear Cropping


Illegal Dog Breeds


My Dog has Attacked someone or another animal.

My Dog has caused a road traffic accident

My dog or I have been attacked by another dog.

Stray Dogs – my dog is/gets out

Stray Dogs – I have found a stray

Tail Docking

Travelling with your Dog in the EU (including to the Republic of Ireland)

Travelling with your Dog within the UK

When should my Dog be on a lead

Worrying Livestock

XL Bullys


Dog Licensing

You must obtain a dog licence for each dog you own (unless exempted).

In order to obtain a licence you must be over 16 years old and not be disqualified from keeping dogs. The fee for licensing your dog is £12.50 annually, though reduced fees of £5 are available if you are in receipt of certain state benefits, are aged over 65 and/or if the dog is net. Each Local Government District (LGD, formerly district councils) has an online portal for applications (follow this link).

In certain circumstances, the owner of three or more dogs may apply for a ‘block licence’ at an annual fee of £32.

To licence your dog it must be microchipped, and the correct information (e.g. contact details) must be held on the microchip database. A condition of a licence is that, when in a public place, the dog must wear a collar with the owner’s name and address inscribed on it, or a plate or badge attached to the collar (some exemptions apply for working dogs). If ownership of a dog is later transferred (e.g. your dog is given to a friend or relative), you need to apply to the LGD for a certificate of transfer. If your dog is a prohibited breed of dog (i.e. a so called ‘dangerous dog’) you cannot apply for a dog licence, unless the dog has been exempted. For more information on prohibited breeds please follow this link. [insert link to that section]

Block licences:

If you keep more than 3 dogs at the same address/premises you can apply for a block licence (i.e. one licence which applies to multiple dogs). These block licences only apply where you have:

–              3 or more unspayed bitches (which between all of them breed less than 3 litters in a 12-month period)

–                 3 or more dogs registered with the kennel club or other similarly recognised organisation.


What can happen if I break the law?

It is an offence if your dog does not wear the right collar or identification. Conviction could result in a maximum fine of £1,000. Keeping a dog without a valid licence may result in:

1.     a warning

2.     a formal caution

3.     a fixed penalty or prosecution

4.     a fine of up to £1,000

It is also an offence to take possession of a dog before you have obtained a licence for it (whether you paid for it or not). You can be prosecuted for this offence and may be liable to a maximum fine of £1,000. The person who gave or sold you the dog is also guilty of an offence in these circumstances.



The Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983 (as amended)

The Dogs (Licensing and Identification) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012






All dogs over the age of 8 weeks old must be microchipped.

You are responsible for ensuring that the contact details held against your dog’s microchip number are accurate. If the details are not accurate, the dog licence you hold regarding that dog will not be valid. You  have a duty to ensure that you details are kept up to date by notifying the microchip company of any changes – e.g. in address or telephone number.


Very occasionally a vet may advise against microchipping on health grounds. If this is the case, they will need to issue the owner or breeder with an exemption certificate.


What happens if I break the law?

If your dog is not microchipped, you will not be able to obtain  a dog licence and you will be guilty of an offence.


The law:


The Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983, article 6 (7), as amended by the Dogs (Licensing and Identification) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012.

The Dogs (Licensing and Identification) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2014.







Animal Welfare


·        Animal cruelty – causing unnecessary suffering


Under animal welfare legislation a person commits a criminal offence if their action(s), or failure to act, cause an animal unnecessary suffering, whether physical or mental.  What exactly constitutes suffering is not defined and a person who causes an animal to suffer may be able to justify their actions by show that they acted for a legitimate purpose, such as benefiting the animal; or to protect a person, property or another animal.


There are also specific offences created by the Animal Welfare Act i.e. poisoning an animal (s. 8) or abandoning an animal (s.14)


In addition to the prohibition on suffering, owners are required to meet the needs of their animals


·       Failure to meeting welfare needs:

To meet their dog’s minimum welfare needs owners are required by law to provide their dogs with the following:

·                the need for a suitable environment;

·                the need for a suitable diet;

·                the need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns;

·                any need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals; and

·                the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.




Inspectors appointed by the local government district (LGD) formerly district councils) are responsible for enforcing the law and have the power to issue improvement notices which detail how an owner is failing to meet the need of their animals and what steps need to be taken to comply with the law.

If an inspector or a police constable reasonably believes that an animal is suffering, they may take any measures they believe to be immediately necessary to alleviate the animal’s suffering. If a veterinary surgeon certifies that an animal is suffering or is likely to suffer unless circumstances change the animal may be removed. An animal may only be euthanised if a veterinary surgeon certified that it is in the best interests of the animal to be euthanised; unless the animal’s condition is such that there is no reasonable alternative to destroying it, and it is not reasonably practicable to wait for a veterinary surgeon.


An inspector or a constable may enter premises, other than a private house for the purpose of searching for an animal they reasonably believe to be suffering or likely to suffer if the circumstances of the animal do not change. An inspector or constable may also apply to a lay magistrate for a warrant to enter any premises, if necessary using reasonable force, in order to search for evidence of the commission of a relevant offence under animal welfare legislation.



What can happen if I break the law?

Dog owners who cause unnecessary suffering or fail to ensure their pet’s welfare needs are met could face prosecution for animal cruelty. Owners can be taken to court by the local government district if they fail to look after their pets properly and face a sentence of up to 5 years, and a fine of up to £20,000. They may also have their pet taken away and/or be banned from having pets in the future. An as alternative to prosecution the district council officer (dog warden?) may be served an improvement notice requiring you to improve your dog’s living conditions to that their welfare needs are met.


Who do I contact if I suspect animal cruelty?

Local government districts (LGD) are responsible for the welfare of domestic animals including dogs. Suspicions of cruelty should therefore be reported to your  LGD  (details are included below). The only exceptions to this is where cruelty is linked to other criminal activity for e.g. dog fighting, badger baiting with dogs, dog/puppy trafficking; these activities should be reported to PSNI

Belfast City Council

Telephone: 028 9027 0431 Email:

Eastern Region

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, and Ards & North Down Borough Council.

Telephone: 028 9244 7861 Email:

Northern Region

Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council,

and Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council.

Telephone: 028 2563 3134 Email:

Southern Region

Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council,

and Newry Mourne & Down District Council.

Telephone: 028 3751 5800 Email:

Western Region

Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, Derry City & Strabane District Council,

and Mid Ulster District Council.

Telephone: 028 8225 6226 Email:




Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011, ss. 3, 4, 8, 9, 14.

Sentencing Guidelines – Magistrates’ Court – Animal Offences | Judiciary NI




Dog Fighting


Dog fighting is prohibited by law. Causing a dog to fight with another dog, other animal or person is a criminal offence. Activities related to dog fighting are also prohibited. These include:

·       taking part in a fight with a dog

·       attending a dog fight

·       receiving money in relation to a dog fight

·       publicising a dog fight, including any communication with others which may enable or encourage them to attend the fight

·       making or accepting a bet on a dog fight

·       training dogs for fighting

·       being in any way responsible for premises used for dog fighting.

·       possessing photos or videos of dog fights and either intending to or showing or sending them to other people or publishing them in any form.




Welfare of Animals (Northern Ireland) Act 2011 s.8











Tail Docking


It is against the law to dock a pet dog’s tail. (This does not apply to dogs whose tails were docked before 1 January 2013).


There are very limited exemptions where tail docking is permitted.

These include

–              by a vet for the purposes of necessary medical treatment.

–              by anyone if amputation is necessary to save a dog’s life

–              working dogs: Puppies under 5 days old which may be used as working dogs in the future (in specific industries including law enforcement, lawful pest control or lawful shooting of animals). The vet must receive evidence to determine if the puppy meets the conditions to qualify as a potential future working dog. Only certain breeds may be exempt as working dogs (i.e. spaniels, terriers and crosses of these breeds, and other dogs commonly known to be used for hunting, pointing, or retrieving).


If you buy a puppy born in Northern Ireland and they have a docked tail, the breeder must supply a certificate of exemption, signed by the breeder and vet who undertook the procedure.


What can happen if I break the law?


Any person convicted of illegal tail-docking of a dog could face a maximum of two years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.




Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011, section 6

The Welfare of Animals (Docking of Working Dogs’ Tails and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

Sentencing Guidelines – Magistrates’ Court – Animal Offences | Judiciary NI







Ear Cropping/Clipping


Ear cropping, (sometimes also referred to as docking or clipping) is an unnecessary mutilation where part of the dog’s ear is cut off. The dog’s ear is then sometimes attached to a splint to shape them into an upright position. Mutilating dogs in this way causes unnecessary suffering to the dog and has no welfare benefits.


It is against the law to dock or crop a dog’s ear in part or whole. It is an offence to carry out ear cropping; to cause such a procedure to be carried out, or to permit another person to carry out the procedure. This means that, as well as an offence being committed by the person carrying out the procedure, an owner commits an offence if they send their dog abroad to have their ears cropped, or if they allow someone else to crop the dog’s ears in this country.


Currently it is still lawful to import a dog into Northern Ireland which has had its ears cropped abroad.  Note that this is not the case in the Republic of Ireland where all dogs with cropped ears must have official documentation.



What can happen if I break the law?


Owners can be taken to court and face a sentence of up to 5 years, and a fine of up to £20,000.




Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 section 5.

Sentencing Guidelines – Magistrates’ Court – Animal Offences | Judiciary NI


Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 (revised) [Republic of Ireland]






Breeding Dogs

If you breed from your dogs, you many need to obtain a licence from your local government district.

So called ‘hobby breeders’, who do not sell more than 2 litters per year do not require a licence.

However, if you breed or sell more than 3 litters in a 12-month period you are deemed to be operating a dog breeding establishment. A dog breeding establishment is defined as one or more premises, within the same area, operated by the same person and from which that person keeps three or more breeding bitches, and either:

·       breeds three or more litters of puppies in any 12-month period

·       advertises three or more litters of puppies for sale in any 12-month period

·       supplies three or more litters of puppies in any 12-month period, or

·       advertises a business of breeding or selling puppies.

A dog breeding establishment must obtain a licence from their local government district Premises will be inspected by local government district inspectors before a licence is granted. Inspections will ensure that breeders meet welfare standards regarding:

·       the accommodation and environment

·       the suitability of whelping facilities

·       the suitability of the diet

·       socialisation, enrichment and enhancement opportunities available to bitches and puppies

·       health and access to veterinary treatment, vaccinations etc.

Before granting or renewing a licence the local government district will also require evidence of proper record keeping – e.g., the identification of breeding bitches, puppies etc.

You cannot apply for a dog breeding licence if you have been disqualified under any of the following Acts:

·       the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973

·       the Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983 (amended)

·       the Welfare of Animals (Northern Ireland) Act 2011

·       Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963

·       The Protection of Animals Act 1954

·       The Pet Animals Act 1951

You may also need permission from your landlord or mortgage provider, and should check with Building Control and Belfast Planning Service to ensure you have all the relevant documents and approvals. It is your responsibility to make sure all that these checks have been made. There are different fees for each breeding establishment depending on the number of bitches kept there.

The Irish and English Kennel Clubs require breeders to have a breeding establishment licence, or registration will be refused.


Dogs used for breeding must also be licenced [insert link to licencing tab]

What can happen if I break the law?


It is an offence to operate a dog breeding establishment without a licence.  It is also an offence to contravene any condition of a licence to keep a dog breeding establishment.  The penalty for these offences is a fine not exceeding level £5,000, and/or imprisonment for a period of up to 6 months.




Welfare of Animals (Dog Breeding Establishments and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013





Dog fouling

Picking up your dog’s poo is important. Dog poo poses a health risk both to people and to other animals, including cows and sheep.  Bags need to be disposed of responsibly as bagged faeces can also pose health risks to livestock via ingestion of plastics. Owners are under a legal duty to clean up after their dog while out in public

There are some exemptions for owners who are registered blind/partially sighted or if the dog is a registered assistance dog trained by a prescribed charity.


What can happen if I break the law?


Dog fouling penalties are administered by local government districts in Northern Ireland. If you let your dog foul a public place you may receive an on-the-spot fine. Levels vary by local government district but are generally between £80-£200.  If you refuse to pay the fine you can be prosecuted for allowing dog fouling.




Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 section 40

The Dog Control Orders (Prescribed Offences and Penalties, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012, schedule 1.





Help, my dog has got out and is lost/straying:

A dog is deemed to be a stray if it is unaccompanied and off your property. Neighbourhood Environment Officers may reunite a dog and its owner. There is a fee for this service.

A local government district can impound any stray dog for its safety and take it to a kennel. During that time they will feed the dog and look after it. This includes arranging any veterinary treatment they deem necessary. While the dog is in their care they will charge daily fees. When you claim your dog, you will be liable for those fees, as well as any vet fees incurred. You may have to pay all fees incurred before your dog is released back into your care.

The District Council will keep the dog in kennels for five days. If you do not claim you dog within that time, or pay the fees the Council can either:

–              transfer a dog to private kennels/ rescue/rehoming organisation for rehoming,

–              sell the dog

–              or have the dog put to sleep (euthanised).

What happens if I break the Law?

Allowing a dog to stray is a criminal offence. If you are prosecuted and found guilty you could have to pay a fine of £200 and will have a criminal record.

As an alternative to prosecution, the District Council may offer an opportunity to pay a Fixed Penalty Notice. The default level for a fixed penalty is £75, although a District Council may set its own level between £50 to £80 and allow a discount for early payment. You can choose not to pay the fixed penalty and have the matter dealt with in court.



The Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983, articles 22, 23





Help I’ve found a stray dog:


It is important to try to contact the owner of a dog that appears to be a straying. Check their collar for details if it is safe to do so, or have its microchip checked by a vet.

If you cannot identify the owner, you can take care of the dog (by detaining it if necessary) while you contact either the local government district or the PSNI who will  arrange for the dog to be collected by a dog warden. Remember that the law treats dogs as property so you cannot just keep a stray without following the steps above. If you do so you might be charged with theft. The dog warden service will be able to provide further advice.

Relevant Law:


The Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983 (as amended).

See also: Animal Welfare Leaflet.pdf (




When/Where does my dog need to be on a lead?


Dogs do not always need to be kept on lead. However, they must not be dangerously out of control in public places.

A dog is deemed to be ‘under control’ if on a lead held by someone able to control the dog. For example, a large dog would not be under control if its lead was held by someone who would be unable to restrain the dog if it strained against the lead. Training classes can help to build recall skills which will allow the dog to be safe to be off lead around other people and animals.

Dogs must be under control when in open country (mountains, moors, heathland, hills, woodland, cliffs, foreshore, marsh, bog or waterway).

Dogs must be kept on a lead in designated pedestrian zones and on land where livestock is present. Local government districts have bylaws (including Dog Control Orders) outlining areas where this is required, such as in public parks or children’s play areas.


What can happen if I break the law?

Local government districts have the power to introduce dog control  orders and can issue fines or fixed penalty notices for those who do not comply with them. A dog that behaves dangerously may be seized by the local dog warden, and the owner may be prosecuted. The dog may be destroyed if the magistrate considers that it is  they are a danger to the public.



Access to the Countryside (Northern Ireland) Order 1983

The Dog Control Orders (Prescribed Offences and Penalties, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012, schedule 2.


Environment & Heritage Service, A Guide to Public Rights of Way and Access to the Countryside, Guidance Notes on the Law, Practices and Procedures in Northern Ireland (2021)




Dog Control Orders

A dog control order is a type of regulation or bylaw that applies to public land. They can be  introduced by local government districts provided an order is a justified and proportionate response to problems caused by the activities of dogs and those in charge of them (e.g. fouling, dog attacks, livestock worrying etc).

Dog control orders create certain criminal offences, for instance:

·       not keeping a dog on a lead (in areas where this is required);

·       not putting, and keeping, a dog on a lead when directed to do so by an authorised officer;

·       permitting a dog to enter land from which dogs are excluded; and

·       taking more than a specified number of dogs onto land.



What can happen if I break the law?


Breaching a Dog Control Order is a criminal offence , and could result in you having to go to court, getting a criminal record, and being made to pay a fine up to a maximum of £1,000.




Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2012

Dog Control Orders (Prescribed Offences and Penalties, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012






Worrying Livestock


Dogs can cause considerable distress to livestock. Sheep may be killed or seriously injured by an attack or in a panicked attempt to escape. The stress of worrying by dogs can also cause sheep to die or a pregnant ewe to miscarry.

Dogs should be kept under control and on leads when walking on roads or near farm animals. It is a criminal offence to allow a dog on any land containing livestock unless the dog is under control. A dog is considered ‘under control’ if it is on a lead held by someone able to control the dog.

For example, a large/strong dog would not be under control if its lead was held by a person who would be unable to restrain the dog if it strained against the lead.


What can happen if I break the law?

Where a dog causes damage by worrying livestock, The penalty for this offence is a fine of up to £1,000 in addition to paying compensation for any damages caused.



The law:


The Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1993 (as amended)

Animals (Northern Ireland) Order 1976, Section 8

The Countryside Code for Northern Ireland





Your Dog has Attacked a Person or Another Animal

A dog attack is an incident in which your dog either injures a person, puts a person in fear of being injured, or injures another animal, whether on public or private land. If any of those things happen, you may be guilty of an offence. If a person is injured in the attack, it will be treated more seriously. You might also be liable for civil damages if they sue you.

You should take reasonable precautions when exercising your dog to ensure that you prevent such circumstances arising.  Depending on the circumstances, that may mean walking your dog on a lead, or putting on a muzzle.

The main defence to a charge is where your dog bites someone who is on your land without permission or a good reason for being there.


What can happen if I break the law?


If your dog attacks and injures another person’s pet, you may be guilty of an offence punishable by a fine of up to £1,000.

If you deliberately set the dog on livestock or another person’s pet animal you could be fined up to £2,500.

If your dog puts someone in fear of an attack because they act aggressively you may be subject to six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.

If your dog injures someone during an attack:

·       you could face up to two years in prison and a fine of £5000.

·       a court may order the dog to be put to sleep (euthanised). The court can make an order to PTS unless certain measures are complied with.  Such measures might include muzzling when the dog when out in public, confining the dog to a secure place from which they cannot escape, or exclusion from public places.

·       Whether or not you are taken to court over the incident, if a dog warden believes your dog has attacked a person or animal the dog warden can impose dog control conditions on you and/or your dog.

·       The individual who was attacked can also bring a civil claim against you as the owner for their injuries. For this claim to be upheld they will need to show that you were negligent i.e. that your dog was ‘dangerously out of control’ –  for example they were not suitably restrained in a public place etc. Typically, the person injured has 3 years from the date of the incident to initiate legal proceedings.



The Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983, (as amended); article 28 – attacks on animals, article 29 – attacks on persons, article 53 – civil liability.

Sentencing Act 2020 s.122.



Dog Control Conditions


Where a local government district  dog warden reasonably believes that certain offences related to dogs have been committed by a dog owner, the warden can impose a notice of Control Conditions on the dog.

Relevant offences include:

·       Allowing dogs to stray

·       Allowing dogs on roads affected by a Dog Control Order

·       Allowing dogs into fields containing livestock

·       A dog attacking animals or worrying livestock

·       A dog attack or injures a person. [In line with above change to a dog ‘attacking or injuring’ a person]


These conditions can require you to keep the dog:

·       Muzzled in a public place,

·       Under control (on a lead) in a public place,

·       In a secure building, yard or enclosure when not under control,

·       Away from particular places (which will be listed in the notice).


These conditions may also require you to:

·       Neuter a male dog

·       Attend a training course with the dog in question within 6 months of the notice being made.

Since any such conditions will be imposed by a dog warden you will not have to go to court or have a criminal record.   However, breaching these conditions might lead to prosecution.



The Dogs Order (Northern Ireland) 1983, (as amended), articles 30A and 30B.

What if I break the Law?

If you breach the conditions in the notice, you may be issued with a fixed penalty notice or you might be prosecuted. If you are found guilty, you may be liable to a fine of up to £2,500.


Appealing against dog control conditions:

Owners can appeal to a magistrate’s court against the imposition of any control condition. If you want to do this yourself, you can use the form you will find here. It needs to be presented to the local government district that made the order and to the Clerk of the magistrate’s court. You should make sure that you notify the local government district first, because the version of the form submitted to the clerk of the court should include the date and manner (in person, by post etc) that the form was given to the local government district. This must all be done within 30 days of the control order being made.



Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983 (as amended), Article 30C

Magistrates Court Rules (Northern Ireland) 1984 (as amended), Part V (rr.97-101).


Asking for a review of dog control conditions:

When six months have passed from the issue of the notice imposing a control condition (or conditions) you can ask the local government district which issued the notice to review the continuing need for the conditions. Once you have asked the LGD for a review, you cannot ask for a second review until a year has passed.




The Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983 (as amended), Article 30D






My dog or /I have been attacked by another dog


A dog attack is an incident in which another dog either injures you, puts you in fear of being injured, or injures your pet. If any of those things happen, the owner of the dog may be guilty of an offence.  Dog attacks should be reported to PSNI.  Depending on the seriousness of the injuries suffered the owner may receive a fine of up to £500 and/or up to two years in prison.  A court may order the dog be put to sleep (euthanised) or place conditions on the owner of the dog.


You may also be able to make a personal injury claim against the dog owner for the injuries you have sustained. For such a claim to be upheld you will need to show that the owner of the dog was negligent – i.e. that the dog who attacked you was ‘dangerously out of control’ – for example they were not suitably restrained in a public place etc. Typically, you have 3 years from the date of the incident to initiate legal proceedings. Damages may be reduced if you in some way contributed to  the likelihood of the attack for example acting provocatively next to a dog who was clearly agitated etc. Personal Injury claims must be made in the County Court.


If your pet is injured as a result of a dog attack you may be able to make a civil claim for damages.  For example, you may be able to recover the cost of vet treatment required as a result of the attack. If the total value of your claim is £5,000 or less, you can use the Small Claims Court. A guide to small claims and the application form can be found here. If it is more than £5,000 you would need to make a claim in the County Court.


If you are considering making a civil claim in the County Court, bear in mind that it could be a complex, time-consuming and expensive process.  Therefore, you should consider taking legal advice before making any claim.




The Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983 , as amended, article 28 – attacks on animals, article 29 – attacks on persons.

Sentencing Act 2020 s.122.




Animals (Northern Ireland) Order 1976,

Neeson v Acheson [2008] NIQB 12






What happens if my dog causes a road traffic accident?


If your dog causes disruption on the public road causing an accident, you may be liable for any resultant injuries or damage. Third party insurance is recommended as in this eventuality legal costs may be very high, depending on the severity of the incident.



Animals (Northern Ireland) Order 1976

Highway Code for Northern Ireland





Driving with your dog

You can lawfully take your dog(s) in the car with you, so long as you properly restrain them so that they cannot distract the driver or hurt anyone in the car or themselves should the driver need to brake suddenly.  A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage/crate or dog guard may be used to safely restrain your dog(s) when travelling.


What can happen if I break the law?


There is no direct penalty for breaking the Highway Code. However, if your dog is unrestrained when travelling in a car you could be found to be ‘driving without due care and attention’, which results in  three to nine points on your driving licence and/or a fine of up to £2,500. This could also be used as evidence against you if you were to be involved in an accident.


If your dog is found to have caused or contributed to an accident, your car insurance could be invalidated, as could any pet insurance policies.


The law:


Highway Code for Northern Ireland, section 57.







Specific Rules for Greyhound/Whippets/Lurchers

There are specific requirements concerning greyhounds, whippet and lurcher-type dogs (including crosses).

When exercised or led in a street or other public place, greyhounds must be kept under control (i.e. on a lead) and muzzled. No more than two greyhounds should be exercised or led by any one person in any street, road, highway, or other public place at one time.


What can happen if I break the law?

Failure to comply with the above requirements may result in a £80 fixed penalty notice.

Repeat offending may result in more serious consequences.



Control of Greyhounds Act (Northern Ireland) 1950.





Illegal types of dog

Four types of dogs are currently banned in Northern Ireland:

·        Pit Bull terrier

·       Japanese Tosa

·       Dogo Argentino

·       Fila Brasileiro

·       XL Bully’s will be added to this list on 5th July 2024 and a phased ban will then take effect.

It is an offence to breed, sell, offer for sale, or make a gift of these types of dogs.

While it is not an offence to own dogs of these types, certain restrictions are placed on their ownership and how they are managed. As with any breed of dog they must be licensed. However a local government district may licence a dog of a prohibited  type only if that dog has been exempted from the prohibition in Article 25A(3) of the Dogs Order.

Thus, the owner must apply for an exemption which requires them to:

·       neuter the dog

·       kept the dog leashed and muzzled when in a public place

·       when not in a public place, keep the dog in secure conditions

·       take out third-party insurance for the dog

·       make the dog available to council dog wardens for inspection

If you own a dog who may be of a prohibited type and have not applied for an exemption the dog is liable to be seized. A council dog warden, or an expert used by the council, will assess your dog’s physical characteristics.  A dog identified as prohibited type by a dog warden will be presumed to be so unless the owner can prove in court that it is not one of these types. An owner of a seized dog must let the court know that they plan to give evidence that the dog is not a prohibited dog type at least 14 days before the hearing is due to take place.

Following the assessment, the council will decide either of the following:

·       your dog will be released if it is not believed to be a banned breed

·       your dog will be kept in kennels while the council applies to a court for a destruction order

·       You can give up ownership of your dog, but you cannot be forced to. If you do, your dog could be destroyed without a court order.

Once seized, your dog will be kept in kennels before a court hearing – this could be for several weeks or months. Cases are heard in the magistrate’s court. In most cases, a court will order a dog seized as a banned breed to be put to sleep (euthanised), even if the owner is not prosecuted. You can appeal against decision to destroy a dog deemed to be of a prohibited type. However, because the identification of e.g. a Pit Bull Terrier type is based on measurement of physical characteristics, it is very difficult to challenge a decision based on a finding that dog conforms to certain physical standards. Moreover, as the identification is based on appearance, evidence that the dog is a cross of different breeds is irrelevant. Consequently, it is rare for an appeal to be brought regarding a dog who has been ‘typed’.



If your dog is deemed to be a banned type but the court believes it would not be a danger to the public if kept under certain strict conditions, the court may make a ‘contingent destruction order’. This exempts the dog from the ban if the exemption conditions are met.

The exemption conditions are:

  • the dog is neutered
  • the dog is kept leashed and muzzled when in a public place
  • when not in a public place, the dog is in sufficiently secure conditions
  • the dog is made available to council dog wardens for inspection
  • the council is notified of any change of address of the dog, or of the death or export of the dog
  • third-party insurance policy is taken out for the dog


You have two months to show that the exemption conditions have been met and if so you apply for a dog licence from the council.


What can happen if I break the law?

If you are found guilty of any of these offences, you face a sentence of up to six months imprisonment and a fine of £5,000. If having achieved an exemption you fail to comply with the conditions it is then highly likely that the dog would be euthanised.


Dogs Order (Northern Ireland) 1983 (as amended) Article 25A.

Dangerous Dogs (Designated Types) Order (Northern Ireland) 1991/467,

Dangerous Dogs Compensation and Exemption Schemes Order (Northern Ireland) 1991.

Barnes v Belfast City Council [2012] NICA 13




When your dog is on private property (i.e. in your home or someone else’s)


Dog Barking


It is normal and natural for dogs to bark.  However, excessive barking can be annoying and upsetting for neighbours. Dogs can be trained to bark less; successful positive training methods rely on identifying the reason for the dog barking. E.g. if they only bark excessively when left alone this may be due to separation anxiety. Research into noise complaints amongst neighbours suggests that problems are most likely to be resolved when people discuss things calmly and try to work out a solution.

If neighbours complain about excessive barking, the local government districts (LGDs) have powers to investigate noise which is giving rise to complaints. They also have specific powers to deal with noise at night from domestic and licensed premises.


What can happen if I break the law?

If your LGD receives complaints about  your dog barking, , they will investigate . The  LGD may seek to resolve the problem by mediating between you and the person/ people who complained to try and find a solution which works for you all.


If it lacks the resources to do this or  if such mediation is unsuccessful, and the  LGD Officer is satisfied that the noise amounts to a nuisance, it will serve you with an abatement notice requiring the noise to be reduced to an acceptable level.


If you fail to comply with an abatement notice, you could face prosecution and, if convicted, a fine of up to £5,000 (and possibly further daily fines of up to £500 for each day on which the offence continues after conviction).


Barking at night can result in council officers issuing warning notices and fixed penalty notices. If you fail to keep to a warning notice, you could face prosecution and, if convicted, be fined up to £1000. Fixed penalty notices for an amount of £100 may be issued instead of prosecution.


The law:

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011

Noise Act 1996


Dangerous Dogs Amendment Act – Offence for a dog to be dangerously out of control in any place, public or private


Dog bites on private property


If your dog bites someone who has entered your land legally (for example postal workers, couriers, window cleaners, carers etc) you may be guilty of an offence and possibly liable to pay compensation.


This will not apply if someone is on your land illegally (without your permission or a reason for being there). There will likely be legal consequences if your dog bites someone, even on your property.


Law: Dogs Order 1983 arts 29 and 53.






Dog Kennels and Home Boarding


All kennels should hold an animal boarding establishment licence (which is renewed annually).

DAERA is responsible for licensing animal boarding premises.


To obtain a licence to run a kennel, staff must hold suitable qualifications or have the necessary experience to run an animal boarding establishment.

Applicants also have to show that the animals they look after are:

·       kept in suitable accommodation

·       provided with adequate food, drink, and bedding

·       regularly exercised

·       safeguarded in an emergency (for example fire evacuation procedures)

·       protected from infectious disease – this includes providing isolation facilities


The Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DARD) may inspect premises before granting a licence. They can also undertake ‘spot checks’ at  any time after the licence is issued  to check that the kennels  meet health, safety and animal welfare standards.


Currently, home boarding for dogs cannot be licenced in Northern Ireland Licences available here are limited to kennels where dogs are kept in a purpose-built accommodation away from a family home. This means that any home boarders advertising their services are currently unlicenced and so may not be fully insured for the services they provide.


The Law:


Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 1972 and the Animal Boarding Establishments Regulations (NI) 1974.




Travelling with your dog between NI and the EU (Including the Republic of Ireland)

It is still possible to travel between Northern Ireland and the EU (including the Republic of Ireland) with minimal formalities, and that will still largely be true for your dogs under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). You can travel from NI to another EU Member State with up to five dogs, without  the dog(s) needing to be quarantined, provided that your dog(s) satisfy the following requirements:

·       The dog(s) must be microchipped (or tattooed with an identification number if they were tattooed prior to 2011)

·       The dog(s) must have been vaccinated against rabies. They must have been older then 12 weeks and microchipped when the vaccine was administered, and proper immunity must have developed. This will take at least 21 days after the primary vaccination is given but may take longer – see the data sheet which will have been provided with the vaccine.

·       You must hold a valid EU Pet Passport

·       If you are travelling to or from Finland, Norway or Malta or the Republic of Ireland, your dog must have been treated for tapeworm, details of which must be recorded on the Pet Passport.

You should contact the appropriate authorities in the destination state before travelling to confirm that there are no additional local or temporary EU rules which you might need to be aware of before you travel.


If you are travelling with more than five dogs there will be additional requirements (unless you are travelling to a competition or show and provide paperwork to prove that the dogs you are travelling with are registered to attend that show).

If you are travelling with more than five dogs for any other purpose you should contact a vet or the appropriate authorities in your destination country for more information.


What can happen if I break the law?


If you enter the EU with a dog that does not meet the above criteria, the most likely outcome is that the pet would be denied entry at the border and/or sent back to the departure country at your expense. While the power exists to put a dog to sleep if it is unlawfully in that jurisdiction it is unlikely that would happen unless there is a significant risk to animal or public health.


The law:

The EU Pet Travel Regulation (Regulation (EU) 576/2013), Transmissible Animal Diseases Regulation, (EU) 2016/429, Part VI.



Travelling with your dog between NI and GB

Since Great Britain has left the EU, it is no longer a part of the EU Pet Travel Scheme. As a result there are new rules for moving pets between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

At present, other than having a properly registered microchip, there are no other restrictions  on animals travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There will be no mandatory checks, nor any requirement to produce documents when making this journey with pets. Officials might still ask to check on your dog’s welfare while travelling.

However if a dog is travelling from Great Britain into Northern Ireland  and its final destination is the EU (including the Republic of Ireland) other formalities will be required. If a dog is travelling to Great Britain, but its final destination is another EU State, then you will need to comply with the formalities required by the EU.


The Law:

Agreement on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU 2019; Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.




XL Bullys

A phased ban on the dog type known as XL Bullys will be coming into effect over the course of 2014, bringing Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the United Kingdom.

The first phase of the ban comes into force on 5th July 2024 and will add the breed known as XL Bullys to the list of illegal breeds in Northern Ireland. It will then be an offence to breed, sell, exchange, gift or abandon an XL Bully type dog. In addition, while it will still remain legal to own an XL Bully, you will have to keep it muzzled and on a lead in public. The dog must also be kept securely.

The next stage of the ban will come into effect on December 31st 2024. From then on it will be unlawful to own an XL Bully without an exemption certificate. It is not yet clear what the processes will be to apply for a certificate.

Details will be published in due course of compensation schemes for XL Bully owners who no longer wish to keep their dogs. Further guidance will also be published on how to determine whether your dog/puppy is an XL Bully type dog. However it will be very similar to the guidance use in the rest of the UK.


What happens if I break the law?

Once the new law is in force if you are found to be keeping an XL Bully without an exemption certificate, your dog will be seized and probably euthanised. If you are found guilty of an offence, you will be liable to a fine of up to £5,000 and/or could be sent to prison for up to six months.



Dangerous Dogs (Designated Type) Order (Northern Ireland) 2024