Sanctions and Penalties
The Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 sets out a range of welfare offences for which penalties may be imposed in respect of offences against animals including farmed animals. The maximum penalties available in Northern Ireland for the most serious welfare offences is five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.
The Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is responsible for farmed animals (any animal bred or kept for the production of food, wool or skin or for other farming purposes). DAERA also licenses riding establishments, boarding kennels, pet shops and zoos (relevant application forms are available).
Councils are responsible for enforcement in respect of non-farmed animals i.e. domestic pets and equines (e.g. horses and donkeys etc).
The Police Service of NI (PSNI) is responsible for wildlife crime, animal fighting and incidents involving wild animals such as badger baiting, poisoning of birds and trapping wildlife illegally.
Officers investigating animal welfare related complaints can take a range of actions once an incident has been reported. These include giving advice, issuing verbal and written warnings, issuing improvement notices, taking animals into their possession and prosecution.
Animal Welfare – Contacts
Farmed Animals (DAERA)
If you wish to speak to someone regarding the welfare of farmed animals (defined as any animal bred or kept for the production of food, wool or skin or for other farming purposes) or the licensing of riding establishments, boarding kennels, pet shops and zoos please contact DAERA:
- during office hours - Monday to Friday 9am-5pm telephone - 0300 200 7840
- at weekends – contact a local Private Veterinary Practice or local Police station who will, as necessary, refer the welfare complaint to the relevant DAERA “on call” officer
Non-Farmed Animals (district councils)
If you wish to speak to someone regarding the welfare of non-farmed animals i.e. domestic pets of any vertebrate species and equines (e.g. horses and donkeys etc.) please contact the relevant Council as per the details below.
- Belfast - 028 90 270431
- Eastern Area (Lisburn & Castlereagh Council, Ards & North Down District Council) - 028 9244 7861
- Northern Area (Mid & East Antrim District Council, Causeway Coast & Glens District Council, Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council) - 028 2563 3134
- Southern Area (Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council, Newry, Mourne & Down) - 028 37 515800
- Western Area (Fermanagh & Omagh, Derry & Strabane, Mid-Ulster) - 028 82 256226
- Out of hours – contact the regional number above and the call will be diverted to an answering service.
Wild Animals and Animal Fighting (PSNI)
If you wish to report a welfare issue involving wild animals or one to do with animal fighting you should contact the PSNI.
- You can contact your local police station on 101.