Dangerous Dogs Questions
The Department is responsible for the legislation for the control of dogs, and local councils for its enforcement. Recent public concern on the control of dogs has raised questions -
What legislation governs dangerous dogs in Northern Ireland?
The control of dogs is governed by the Dogs Order (NI) 1983 (as amended by the Dangerous Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 and the Dogs (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2011). Dog fighting and baiting are also offences under the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.
What are the main provisions of the Dogs legislation?
The Dogs Order provides for licensing of dogs by District Councils and the registration by District Councils of guard dog kennels and breeding establishments. The legislation sets out provisions with respect to control of dogs, stray dogs and makes it an offence to attack a person or to worry livestock.
The 1991 Order designates certain types of dogs that it is an offence to breed from, sell or exchange.
The Dogs (Amendment) Act 2011 updates the 1983 Order. The Act introduces provisions which make microchipping of most dogs compulsory, gives powers for dog wardens to attach control conditions to a dog licence for problem dogs and makes it an offence to have a dog that attacks and injures another person’s pet animal.
What types of dogs are prohibited under the legislation?
The legislation prohibits the types of dog known as pit bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero.
Who is responsible for enforcement of the legislation in Northern Ireland?
In Northern Ireland it is the responsibility of District Councils to enforce the Dogs Order, including the provisions regarding dogs bred for fighting.
What action can be taken if a person is found to own or keep a dangerous dog?
District Councils are responsible for enforcing this legislation and may seize any dog that appears to be a banned type and which is in a public place.
What happens if a dangerous dog is kept on private property?
Where an enforcement officer has grounds to believe that an offence regarding a dangerous dog is being committed, the officer can seek a warrant from a magistrate to enter any premises to search for and seize a dog.
What are the penalties for owning a dangerous dog?
The maximum penalty for owning a banned dog type is, on conviction, up to 6 months imprisonment, or a fine of up to £5,000, or both.
What happens if an owner disputes that a dog is a pit bull terrier?
In the legislation, dangerous dogs are classified by type, not by a breed label. This means that whether a dog is considered a dangerous type, and is therefore prohibited, will depend on a judgement about its characteristics, and whether they match the description of a prohibited type. This assessment of the characteristics is made by a court. However, if it is alleged by the prosecution that a dog is a banned type, it will be assumed by the court that it is, unless the owner can provide the court with sufficient evidence to the contrary.
What action can be taken when a dog attacks a person?
The legislation allows a court to make an order directing that a dog be destroyed or to specify measures that need to be taken to ensure that the dog is not a danger to the public (e.g. muzzling).
Enforcement officers may seize any dog that appears to be attacking a person. Attacking a person does not only mean where a dog bites someone for example, but also includes where are dogs behave in such manner so as to cause a person apprehension of being attacked. If your dog does injure the person attacked, you could be sentenced to two years imprisonment and a £5,000 fine.
What action can be taken when a dog attacks another animal?
If your dog worries livestock you are guilty of an offence punishable by a fine of up to £1,000. Worrying livestock does not just mean attacking or killing cattle, sheep and so on. If your dog chases livestock in such a way as could reasonably be expected to cause any form of suffering to the animals or a financial loss to their owner, it will be considered to have worried the livestock.
If your dog attacks and injures another person’s pet, you are guilty of an offence punishable by a fine of up to £1,000. And if you deliberately set your dog on livestock or another person’s pet you could be fined up to £2,500.
What is the position with respect to keeping dogs on leashes or having them muzzled when in public places?
As well as any conditions imposed by a court where your dog has attacked a person or worried livestock District Councils can, under the Local Government Act (NI) 1972 make bye-laws and it is common practice, for example to make bye-laws which require dogs to be leashed in parks and also provide for penalties for fouling outside designated areas in parks for example. There are also provisions under the Dogs Order for dogs to be kept under control.
Council dog wardens can also impose control conditions where certain breaches of the Dogs Order have occurred (whether or not you are prosecuted for those breaches).
If your dog has strayed, attacked a person, livestock or someone else’s pet, or been out of control on certain specified roads or on land where there is livestock, a dog warden may issue a notice requiring you to keep your dog:
- muzzled when in a public place;
- under control (that is, on a lead held by someone strong enough to restrain the dog) when in a public place;
- securely confined in a building, yard or other enclosure when not under control;
- away from any specified place or any type of place; and
- neutered (if male) within 30 days of the date on which the notice comes into effect.