Dog licences and ownership

Introduction

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

If you are a dog owner, you must have a dog licence and get your dog microchipped. See ‘Do I have to get my dog microchipped?’ below for more information.

Your dog must be under your control, or the control of another responsible person, if it is outside your home or premises. You are liable for any injury or damage your dog causes 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.

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:

  • An individual dog licence, which costs €20 and is valid for 1 year.
  • A 'lifetime of dog' licence, which costs €140 and is valid for the dog’s lifetime.
  • A general dog licence, which 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:

  • Guide dogs for blind people
  • Dogs in the possession of a local authority
  • Dogs in the possession of the ISPCA or Gardaí
  • 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 are 12 weeks. This also applies if a dog leaves the property where they were born before they are 12 weeks. The regulations are set out in the Microchipping of Dogs Regulations 2015.

From 1 February 2020, if you are advertising a dog for sale, the advertisement must have the dog’s microchip code.

Does my dog have to wear a collar?

A dog must wear a collar at all times. A collar must have the name and the address of the owner. If your dog doesn’t have this identification a dog warden can give you can an on-the-spot fine (See ‘Penalties’ below). If you don’t pay this fine within the specified period you can be prosecuted by the local authority.

What powers does a dog warden have?

Dog wardens have the power to:

  • Request the name and address of anyone suspected of an offence under the Control of Dogs Act.
  • Seize and detain any dog.
  • Enter any premises (other than a residence) to seize and detain a dog.

You can be arrested by a Garda if you do any of the following:

  • Obstruct a dog warden in the course of their work.
  • Refuse to give your name and address to a dog warden.
  • Give a false name and address to a dog warden.

A dog warden can ask you to produce evidence of your dog licence and if you can’t do this, they can issue 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 your neighbour’s dog won’t stop barking and you are unable to resolve the issue with the dog owner, you can make a complaint to the District Court and look for a hearing. When you get a court date, you must notify the dog owner using a prescribed form, which is available from your local authority or District Court.

Dog fouling

It is an offence to let a dog under your control foul a public place. If it does happen, you, or the person in charge of the dog, must 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 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 can 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 branch of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 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 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 about keeping 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 someone over the age of 16, who is capable of controlling them.
  • Be muzzled whenever they are in a public place
  • Wear a collar with 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 can introduce bye-laws about dog control.

The dog control penalties listed below are a guide. Fines in your area may be higher.

Dog control penalties
Offence Fines Penalty
No dog licence On-the-spot fine: €100 paid 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 paid 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 paid 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

Rules on selling dogs

There are rules about the sale and supply of pets, including dogs. Since, 1 February 2020, 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 about pet animals kept for sale or supply.
  • Include certain information if you are advertising an animal for sale. For example, if you are advertising a dog for sale, you must include its microchip number.
  • Not sell or supply pets under a certain age (8 weeks for dogs).

These rules are set out in the Animal Health and Welfare (Sale or Supply of Pet Regulations) 2019.

There is a Code of Practice (pdf) for people who sell and supply pet animals.

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 statistics on dog control.

Page edited: 15 February 2021