Dogs and Animal Welfare

Animal Welfare

Photograph of a dog out walking in a field

Local Councils have adopted a collaborative regional approach to the new legislation and have appointed nine Animal Welfare Officers to enforce animal welfare in respect of non-farmed animals, only across Northern Ireland.

Three separate bodies are responsible for enforcement of the Act depending on the type of animals involved and, in some cases, the nature of the welfare issue.

The Officers will have statutory enforcement powers and can take a range of action to improve the welfare of non-farmed including, providing advice, issuing an improvement notice, taking animal in to their possession, and initiating prosecution action.

Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011

Under the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011 a person who is responsible for an animal must ensure that its needs are met, and it is an offence to fail to take reasonable steps to ensure its welfare. 

Causing an animal unnecessary suffering is also an offence and can be punished with a prison sentence of up to 5 years and an unlimited fine.

Three separate bodies are responsible for enforcement of the Act depending on the type of animals involved and, in some cases, the nature of the welfare issue.

Officers from the enforcement bodies will investigate complaints and can use their statutory powers to take a range of actions including giving advice, issuing legally binding Improvement Notices, taking animals into their possession and prosecution.

If you do become aware of an animal welfare case:

Please DO:

  • report it to the appropriate enforcement body as set out below, providing as much information as possible.

Please DO NOT:

  • upload comments or photographs to social media sites or other media outlets as this may jeopardise potential court proceedings;
  • interfere with evidence as this may affect any subsequent criminal investigation; or
  • attempt to rescue an animal from another person or property as you may be found to be acting illegally.

Looking after pets in hot weather

Your pets and other animals can suffer heatstroke in hot weather if they don’t keep cool.

Never leave animals inside a car on a hot day and make sure they have:

  • plenty of clean, fresh water to drink
  • a cool and shady place to rest

It’s also important to cover pet food dishes to prevent flies laying eggs on the food.

Contact a vet if you are worried that an animal is suffering from heatstroke. 

For more information visit our Dogs in cars page.

Non-Farmed Animals

Councils are responsible for enforcement of the Welfare of Animals (NI) Act 2011, as it applies to Non-Farmed Animals.

This means domestic pets of any vertebrate species such as cats, dogs, horses and donkeys, etc.

The Council Animal Welfare Officers do not offer re-homing services for unwanted animals but will be able to refer you to other bodies that may be able to help.

If you need to report a Non-Farmed Animal welfare case during office hours Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, you should contact: 

T: 028 2563 3134


Office hours and emergencies

Please note that phone-calls and emails will only be responded to during office hours which are Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (excluding public and bank holidays).

Note that all emails sent to the above email addresses will only be responded to during normal office hours.

If an animal requires urgent attention, you may wish to contact a local vet.

For matters relating to dog straying or dog attacks, please contact Council’s Senior Enforcement Officer on T: 028 2563 3120

Welfare of Farm Animals

The Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is responsible for enforcement of the Welfare of Animals (NI) Act 2011, in relation to Farmed Animals. Welfare complaints in respect of Farmed Animals (that is animals bred or kept for the production of food, wool or skin or other farming purposes) should be referred to DAERA.

During office hours which are Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, contact DAERA by T: 0300 200 7840. 

After 5pm and at weekends if you have a complaint relating to a Farmed Animal contact a local Private Veterinary Practice or the PSNI who will, as necessary, refer the welfare complaint to the relevant “on call” officer.

Welfare of Wild Animals/Animal Fighting

Welfare complaints in respect of wild animals or animal fighting should be referred to your local Police Station:

T: 101


If your call relates to wildlife crime, badger baiting, poisoning of birds, destroying or disturbing bat roosts, release into the wild of non-native species, trapping wildlife illegally, trade in endangered species, deer poaching or if an animal is on the road or other criminal activity is suspected please contact the PSNI non-emergency number T: 101 or in an emergency T: 999. 

Alternatively if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details, they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on T: 0800 555 111

Information on animal welfare and how to care for animals is available on NI Direct's Animal Welfare pages.