As in the rest of the United Kingdom (UK), it is an offence in Northern Ireland (NI) to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal. When determining whether the suffering is unnecessary, regard can be given to whether the conduct that caused the suffering was for the purpose of protecting a person, property or another animal (see sections 4(1) and (3) of the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011. The law in other parts of the UK has been changed to provide that, in cases involving service animals, these factors are to be disregarded.
The Department launched a public consultation to seek views on proposals that added protection should be given to service animals. To ensure that critical legal safeguards are maintained, it was proposed that the added protection should only be afforded to these service animals when they are on active duty; that is where they are under the control of an officer and being used by that officer in the course of his duties in a way that is reasonable. The Department also proposed that it should have the power to add to the animals that are to be provided with enhanced protection.
A detailed summary of the responses received to this consultation and the Department’s response to the issues raised can be found in the document below.
The Department wishes to thank all individuals and organisations who took the time to respond to this consultation.