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.
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.
District 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 – Friday 9am-5pm you should contact 0300 200 7840.
For emergency animal welfare cases only between 9am and 5pm at weekends and over holiday periods contact the same number and you will be directed to an out of hours service.
The Department of Agriculture Enviroment 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-5pm, contact DAERA by telephone: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 Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) who will as necessary, refer the welfare complaint to the relevant DAERA 'on-call' officer.
If you suspect Wildlife Crime, for example; Badger Baiting, illegal killing of birds of prey, destroying or disturbing bat roosts, release into the wild of non-native species, trapping wildlife illegally, trade in endangered species, deer poaching etc. then please contact us. If an animal is involved with other criminal related activity for example dog fighting please telephone us by dialling 101or if very urgent please call 999.
Information can also be given anonymously through the Crime Stoppers Charity on 0800 555 111. We are also responsible for animals wandering on roads under the Animals (NI) Order 1976.
Information on animal welfare and how to care for animals is also available at NI Direct.
If you see anything suspicious, for example a protected bird that appears to have been poisoned or shot, you should inform us as soon as possible. We now have a Wildlife Liaison Officer with special responsibility for such matters. Very substantial fines can be imposed on anyone found guilty of these offences and, in certain circumstances, offenders may be sent to prison.
Find out more about wildlife law and you.
For information regarding marine wildlife, please visit the following areas on the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs website:
- Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises)
- Other marine animals (sharks, marine turtles, jellyfish)