Under the Control of Dogs Act 1986, as amended by the Control of Dogs (Amendment) Act 1992, local authorities are responsible for the control of dogs. They have the power to appoint dog wardens, provide dog shelters, seize dogs, impose on-the-spot fines and take court proceedings against owners.
Local authorities may enter into agreements with each other to provide dog wardens and dog shelters. Some local authorities may enter into agreements with the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) or, with permission from the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, a person or organisation connected with animal welfare to provide these services.
You are liable for injury or damage caused by your dog to people or livestock.
You can be disqualified from keeping a dog if you have been convicted of cruelty to a dog under the Protection of Animals Acts 1911 and 1965.
A new system of compulsory microchipping was introduced in 2015 – see ‘Dog identification’ below.
In order to get a dog licence, you must be over 16 years of age. It is an offence to keep a dog unless you have a licence. All dogs over 4 months of age must have a licence. Puppies under 4 months who are still with their mothers don't need licences, but once they leave their mothers they must have a licence. Your dog must be accompanied by and be under your effective control or the control of another responsible person if it is outside your home or premises or the home or premises of the person in charge of it. A dog warden can ask you to produce evidence of your dog licence and failure to do so can result in an on-the-spot fine. Failure to pay this fine within a specified period can result in prosecution by the local authority.
Licences are not needed for blind persons' guide dogs; for dogs in the possession of a local authority, the ISPCA or the Gardaí; or for any dog imported into the State for less than 30 days.
Standard annual licences for individual dogs are issued by post offices. General dog licences for multiple dogs are issued by local authorities. The revenue from dog licences finances the operation of dog control services.
The Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010 introduced a 'lifetime of dog' licence, which is issued by local authorities.
Dogs must at all times wear a collar that bears the name and the address of the owner inscribed on it or on a plate, badge or disc. Failure to have identification on a dog can result in an on-the-spot fine issued by a dog warden. Failure to pay this fine within a specific period can result in prosecution by the local authority.
Under the Microchipping of Dogs Regulations 2015, a programme of microchipping has been introduced.
Stray dogs are dogs that are in a public place and are not accompanied by the owner or a responsible person. Dogs that are not under proper control are also considered stray dogs. You can receive an on-the-spot fine if your dog is not under proper control. Stray dogs may be seized by the dog warden and the Gardaí and brought to a dog pound. These dogs may be put down or re-homed if their owners do not claim them within 5 days. If your dog has strayed or is missing, you should contact the local dog pound directly to check if your dog is there. Before you collect it, you will have to pay a re-claim fee and produce a current dog licence. If you do not have a current dog licence, you must get one before collecting your dog.
Unwanted dogs should be brought to the dog pound. There may be a charge for accepting them – check this with your local pound. Local authorities have the power to accept unwanted dogs and put them down if they cannot be rehomed or transferred to an animal welfare group.
Dog wardens have the power to request the name and address of a person suspected of an offence under the Control of Dogs Act. They also have the power to seize and detain any dog and to enter any premises with 5 or more dogs, other than a residence, to seize and detain a dog. You are guilty of an offence and can be arrested by a Garda if you obstruct a dog warden in the course of his or her work, refuse to give your name and address or give a false name and address.
Many local authorities have introduced bye-laws to indicate 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. Breaches of these bye-laws can result in fines on summary conviction.
Under Section 22 of the Litter Pollution Act 1997 it is an offence to allow a dog under your control to foul a public place. This means the owner or person in charge of the dog is required to remove dog faeces and dispose of them in a suitable, sanitary manner. You can complain to the District Court under the litter laws against an owner or someone in charge of a dog who allows that dog to foul public places and who fails to act responsibly. Before you do this, you must first inform the dog owner of your intention by completing a special form available from the Dog Control Unit of your local authority. Read more about litter laws.
Excessive dog barking that causes a nuisance is an offence. You may be able to solve such problems by talking to the dog owner.
If you don’t get a satisfactory response, you may complain to the District Court and seek a hearing. When you have received a court date, you must inform the dog owner of your complaint by using the form prescribed for this purpose under Section 25 of the Control of Dogs Act 1986. These forms are available from the District Courts and from local authorities.
The court may make an order requiring the occupier of the premises in which the dog is kept to abate the nuisance by exercising due control over a dog. The court may limit the number of dogs that can be kept on a premises or may direct that a dog be delivered to a dog warden to be dealt with as unwanted.
A guard dog used at a non-residential business premises must be either accompanied by a handler or secured so that it cannot roam freely around the premises or escape. A notice must be displayed at the entrance, informing the public that a guard dog is on the premises.
The guard dog must wear a collar displaying the name and address of its owner. It must also carry an electronic implant containing a permanent identification mark provided by the ISPCA. This implant must be inserted by or under the direct supervision of a veterinary surgeon authorised by the ISPCA. The dog owner is responsible for the cost involved in inserting the implant.
Kennels where more than 5 guard dogs aged over 4 months are kept must register with the local authority. There are specific rules on the keeping of guard dogs: the Control of Dogs Act 1986 (Guard Dog) Regulations 1989.
The Control of Dogs Regulations 1998 impose additional rules in relation to the following breeds (and strains/cross-breeds) of dog:
The rules state that these dogs (or strains and crosses of them) must:
The rules on muzzling and leashing do not apply to dogs used by the Gardaí, the Dublin Harbour Police, State Airport Police and bona fide rescue teams in rescue operations. The rules on muzzling do not apply to guide dogs for the blind.
Local authorities have the power to introduce bye-laws relating to dog control. You should be aware that the penalties listed below are a guide; fines in your area may be higher.
|No dog licence||On-the-spot fine: €100 payable to your local authority||Failure to pay on-the-spot fines can lead to prosecution in District Court with a maximum fine of €2,500 and/or 3 months' imprisonment|
|No identification on dog||On-the-spot fine: €100 payable to your local authority||Failure to pay on-the-spot fines can lead to prosecution in District Court with a maximum fine of €2,500 and/or 3 months' imprisonment|
|Stray dog||Dog pound re-claim fee of €20. Charge of €8 for every night dog is in pound.||The pound will hold a dog for at least 5 days. Dogs not re-claimed from the dog pound within 5 days may be put down, rehomed or transferred to an animal welfare group.|
|Dog not kept under control||On-the-spot fine of €100 payable to your local authority||Failure to pay on-the-spot fines can lead to prosecution in District Court with a maximum fine of €2,500 and/or 3 months' imprisonment|
|Breach of bye-laws (setting out times when dog may be unleashed in public)||Fines up to €2,500 on conviction.|
|Dog fouling public place||Owners/handlers who do not dispose of dog faeces in a responsible manner may receive an on-the-spot fine of €150.||Failure to pay on-the-spot fines can lead to prosecution in District Court with a maximum fine of €3,000 and €600 per day for continuing offences on summary conviction|
An individual dog licence costs €20 and is valid for one year.
A general dog licence costs €400 and is valid for one year.
A 'lifetime of dog' licence costs €140.
The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government publishes detailed information on its website, including guidelines under the Dog Breeding Establishments Act and statistics on dog control.
Contact your vet or else one of the authorised databases (pdf).
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.