Control and ownership of dogs

Introduction

Local authorities are responsible for the control of dogs under the Control of Dogs Act 1986. This act gives them the power to appoint dog wardens, provide dog shelters, seize dogs, impose on-the-spot fines and take court proceedings against owners.

If you are a dog owner, you must have a dog licence. Your dog must 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. 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.

The microchipping of dogs has been compulsory since 2015. See ‘Do I have to get my dog microchipped?’ below for more information.

New regulations

From 1 February 2020, there will be new rules governing the sale or supply of pets. If you sell or supply five or more pets in a calendar year you must:

  • Register with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
  • Maintain records regarding pet animals kept for sale or supply
  • Include certain information if you are advertising the sale of an animal, including the microchip number in the case of dogs
  • Not sell or supply pets under a certain age (8 weeks in the case of dogs)

These rules are set out in the Animal Health and Welfare (Sale or Supply of Pet Regulations) 2019 and in an Information Note (pdf) from the Department of Agriculture.

The Department has also introduced a new Code of Practice (pdf) for sellers or suppliers of pet animals.

Licences and dog control

Do I have to get a licence for my dog?

All dogs over 4 months of age must have a licence. Puppies aged under 4 months who are still with their mothers don't need a licence, but once they leave their mothers they must have a licence.

There are three types of dog licence available:

  • An individual dog licence costs €20 and is valid for 1 year
  • A 'lifetime of dog' licence costs €140 and is valid for the dog’s lifetime
  • A general dog licence costs €400 and is valid for 1 year. This covers an unspecified number of dogs at one location

You can apply for an individual or lifetime dog licence at your local post office or licences.ie. A general dog licence application must be submitted to your local authority.

Licences are not needed for:

  • Blind persons' guide dogs
  • Dogs in the possession of a local authority
  • Dogs in the possession of the ISPCA or Gardaí
  • For any dog imported into the State for less than 30 days

Do I have to get my dog microchipped?

All dogs must be microchipped by a vet and registered on an authorised database by the time they reach the age of 12 weeks. This also applies if they leave the property in which they were born before the age of 12 weeks. The regulations are set out in the Microchipping of Dogs Regulations 2015.

From 1 February 2020, an advertisement for the sale of a dog must carry the dog’s microchip code.

Does my dog have to wear a collar?

All dogs must wear a collar that bears the name and the address of the owner at all times. Failure to have identification on a dog can result in an on-the-spot fine issued by a dog warden (See ‘Penalties’ below). Failure to pay this fine within a specific period can result in prosecution by the local authority.

What powers does a dog warden have?

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, other than a residence, to seize and detain a dog. You 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.

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 (see ‘Penalties’ below).

Barking, fouling or stray dogs

My neighbour's dog won't stop barking. What can I do?

If you are unable to resolve the issue with the dog owner, you can make a complaint to the District Court and seek a hearing. Once you have received a court date, you must notify the dog owner with a prescribed form available from your local authority or District Court.

Dog fouling

It is an offence to allow a dog under your control to foul a public place. If it does happen, you, or the person in charge of the dog, is required to remove the faeces and dispose of them in a suitable, sanitary manner.

If a dog fouls a public place, and the owner doesn’t remove the faeces, you can make a complaint to the District Court under litter laws. Before you do this, you must first inform the dog owner by completing a form available from the Dog Control Unit of your local authority.

Stray dogs

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 or 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

If you have a dog that is no longer wanted, please contact your local Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals branch. Dog charities or pounds may also accept unwanted dogs, although you may be charged. 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.

Guard dogs and dangerous dogs

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.

Rules relating to certain types of dogs

Additional rules apply to the following breeds (and strains/cross-breeds):

  • American pit bull terrier
  • English bull terrier
  • Staffordshire bull terrier
  • Bull mastiff
  • Dobermann pinscher
  • German shepherd (Alsatian)
  • Rhodesian ridgeback
  • Rottweiler
  • Japanese akita
  • Japanese tosa
  • Bandog

These dogs (or strains and crosses of them) must:

  • Be kept on a short strong lead by a person over 16 years who is capable of controlling them
  • Be muzzled whenever they are in a public place
  • Wear a collar bearing the name and address of their owner at all times.

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.

Penalties

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 and fines in your area may be higher.

Dog control penalties
Offence Fines Penalty
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

Further information and contacts

Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

National Animal Centre
Derryglogher Lodge
Keenagh
Co. Longford
Ireland

Tel: +353 (0)43 332 5035
Fax: +353 (0)43 332 5024

The Department of Rural and Community Development publishes detailed information on its website, including statistics on dog control.

Page edited: 20 January 2020