Who is responsible for the control of dogs?
The Control of Dogs Acts 1986 and 1992 place statutory responsibility for dog control and licensing services on local authorities. Under these Acts, local authorities – 29 County Councils and five City Councils – have power to appoint dog wardens, to provide shelters for stray and other dogs, to impose on-the-spot fines for a number of offences and to take court prosecutions. Local authorities may make bye-laws also in relation to the control of dogs within their functional areas. These bye-laws could, for example, specify areas where dogs must be kept on a leash or even prohibited. Your local authority will be able to inform you of the bye-laws that apply in your area.
Local authorities may operate their own dog control services or make arrangements with the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA (link is external)).
By law all dogs must be kept under effective control – owners may be held liable for any injury or damage caused if their dog attacks a person or livestock. The law requires also that all dogs be licensed and there are penalties for non-compliance. There are some exemptions from the licensing requirements, for example, dogs used in official duties by the Gardai, Defence Forces, Custom & Excise Service, etc.
Normally you must have a licence for your dog – there are limited exceptions to this rule. A licence can be issued only to someone over 16 years of age. From 1 January 2012 a dog licence costs 20 euro and is valid for one year from the date of issue of the licence – it can be bought at any post office.
From 1 January 2012 dog owners can buy a “Lifetime of Dog” licence from your local authority. This is valid for the dog’s lifetime and costs 140 euro. This licence is non-refundable and non-transferrable.
A general dog licence is a licence allowing a person to keep an unspecified number of dogs at one designated premises. These licences are sold by your local authority.
From 1 June 2013 if you do not have a licence for your dog, you are liable to a 100 euro “on-the-spot” fine. Failure to pay this fine can lead to a prosecution with a maximum fine of 2,500 euro and/or up to three months imprisonment if convicted. (The maximum fine was set at 1,500 euro under the Local Government, Act 2001, but this figure was subsequently increased by the Fines Act, 2010).
Section 22 of the Litter Pollution Act 1997 makes it an offence for the person in charge of a dog not to clean up when their dog fouls in a public place. Please act responsibly – clean up after your dog and dispose of the dirt in a suitable sanitary manner; use a paper bag. Dog dirt is a health hazard and someday your child might be affected by someone else’s failure to ‘do the right thing’. Train your dog to “go at home” in the garden. Failure to clean up your dog’s waste can lead to a 150 euro “on-the-spot” fine or on summary conviction to a fine of up to 3,000 euro.
The Control of Dogs Regulations 1998 (Statutory Instrument No. 442 of 1998 (link is external)) require the owner or other person in charge of a dog to ensure that at all times, the dog wears a collar having the name and address of the owner on an attached plate, badge or disc.The regulations contain penalties for non-compliance with this requirement or for defacing or rendering illegible the above particulars.
With effect from 31 March 2016, all dogs must be microchipped and registered on an approved database.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine announced the compulsory microchipping of dogs in February 2015. The Microchipping of Dogs Regulations 2015 (link is external), signed in March 2015, require all dogs to be microchipped and registered from 31 March 2016.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s website contains further details and frequently asked questions on this issue (link is external).
What powers do dog wardens have?
The powers of dogs wardens include the power to request the name and address of a person where there are reasonable grounds for believing the person is committing, or has committed, an offence under the dog control legislation; to seize and detain any dog and to enter any premises (other than a dwelling), for the purpose of such seizure or detention. It is an offence to impede or obstruct a dog warden in carrying out his/her duties.
What can I do about barking dogs?
Excessive barking which causes a nuisance to any person is an offence. In a good-neighbourly manner, let the dog’s owner know how the barking affects you. They may not have realised what was happening. If that approach fails, a complaint about excessive barking should be made to the District Court. To do this, you must first inform the dog owner in writing using a prescribed form, which can be obtained from your local authority.
Rules relating to certain breeds of dog
The Control of Dogs Regulations 1998 (link is external)place controls on 10 breeds of dogs namely the American Pit Bull Terrier; English Bull Terrier; Staffordshire Bull Terrier; Bull Mastiff; Doberman Pinscher; German Shepherd (Alsatian); Rhodesian Ridgeback; Rottweiler; Japanese Akita; Japanese Tosa and to every dog of the type commonly known as a Ban Dog (or Bandog).
The controls, which must be observed when the dog is in a public place, require that these dogs, or strains and crosses thereof, must be kept on a strong short lead [only up to 2 metres long] by a person over 16 years of age who is capable of controlling them. The dog/s must be securely muzzled too. Furthermore, the Control of Dogs Act 1986 (link is external)gives specific powers to the courts to order that a dog, which the court considers dangerous, must be kept under proper control or be destroyed.
Spaying/neutering a dog
For various reasons, dogs and pups are put to sleep every year. In some instances this occurs because a female dog breeds without its owner intending this to happen. To help reduce unwanted breeding, act responsibly and have your dog spayed or neutered. Talk to your vet or to the Irish Blue Cross (link is external)or to the ISPCA (link is external).
What dog control statistics are available?
The following are the most recent statistics available.
- Table A – Number of dog wardens employed
- Table C – Dog licences issued
- Table F – Stray and unwanted dogs
- Table I – Enforcement of all provisions
Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010
The provisions of the Dog Breeding Establishments Act, 2010 (link is external) came into force on 1 January 2012.
The regulations cover establishments which keep six or more female dogs which are more than six months old and are capable of breeding.
While the title of the Act refers to Dog Breeding, the regulations may cover you if you keep dogs that are not used for, or never will be used for breeding purposes.You should contact your local authority to check if you are covered by these regulations. The Dog Control section of the local authority will clarify if you are covered by the regulations.
Anyone who is covered by the new regulations will need to register with their local authority and ensure that their premises conform to the guidelines issued as part of the regulations.
Under this legislation, dog breeding establishments already in operation have a lead-in time of six months (i.e. until 30 June 2012) to apply to their local authority to be included in the register of dog breeding establishments. If you are setting up a new establishment you need to apply for inclusion on the register before you set up your establishment.
Failure to register with your local authority is an offence under the regulations.
Guidelines on Dog Breeding Establishments
The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has published Guidelines in relation to the operation of dog breeding establishments and compliance by operators with the Dog Breeding Establishment Act 2010. The regulations contained in the Dog Breeding Establishments Act came into operation on 1 January 2012.
It is important to note that only establishments with six or more female dogs over 6 months of age are covered by the Act. While these guidelines are intended to lead to best practice for dog breeding establishments, they have been prepared by veterinary professionals and can be used by anyone who keeps dogs as a useful guide to welfare issues.