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Animal Welfare

Animal Welfare

Councils have responsibility for the enforcement of the Welfare of Animals (NI) Act 2011, in respect of non-farmed animals.

Under the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011 a person who is responsible for an animal must ensure that its needs are met. It is an offence to fail to take reasonable steps to ensure its welfare. Causing an animal unnecessary suffering is an offence that can be punished with a prison sentence of up to five years and an unlimited fine.

Animal Welfare Officers have statutory enforcement powers and can take a range of actions: providing advice; investigating complaints; issuing an improvement notice, ensuring the owner or keeper complies with the legislation; taking animals into their possession and initiating prosecution action.

The responsibility for the welfare of any animal remains at all times with the owner or keeper of an animal.

If you do become aware of an animal welfare case

  • Report it to the appropriate enforcement body as set out below, providing as much information as possible. This information is confidential and can be reported anonymously. Any personal data provided is retained in line with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018
  • 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.
  • Attempt to rescue an animal from another person or property as you may be found to be acting illegally. 

Q: If I report a problem, will I get an update about what action has been taken?

A: Your concerns will be investigated by an Animal Welfare Officer. We are unable to discuss specific action that may be taken against an individual or disclose into the public domain the personal details of those involved unless the case in question is subject to a hearing in court. However, general information may be disclosed to confirm we have treated the report seriously and dealt with it appropriately.

Q: Can I contact the animal welfare service to re-home my dog?

A: It is the owner’s responsibility to re-home their dog.  Please contact animal sanctuaries to see if they can assist with re-homing. They will need information on the breed of dog, type, age, its microchip number, if it’s vaccinated, and its temperament.

Q: Should I ring animal welfare to report a barking dog?

A: If you believe a dog has been abandoned or is sick or mistreated call our animal welfare service. However, if you are making a noise complaint about a barking dog you should contact the Environmental Health Department on:

Q: Do you collect stray dogs?

A: Our Dog Warden service will collect stray dogs.  See the dog control section of this website for further information.

Q: Do you rescue cats?

A: No. We are not responsible for animal rescue. Unlike dogs, cats who are free to roam will often spend long periods away from their home. They are more likely to do so if they are being fed by different people. Our advice is not to feed cats you don’t own as feeding them will encourage them to stay away from their own home.

Q: Do you deal with feral (wild) cats?

A: No. The Cats Protection organisation is experienced in these matters and will provide advice. Call 028 9048 0202 or email

Q: Who do I call if I find a dead animal on the road?

A: You can report it to Environmental Services on T: 0300 0300 900

Farmed Animals

Welfare complaints in respect of farmed animals (animals bred or kept for the production of food, wool or skin or other farming purposes) should be referred to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. During office hours Monday to Friday 9am-5pm telephone – 0300 200 7840.

At weekends for farmed animal complaints contact a local private veterinary practice or PSNI who will refer the welfare complaint to the relevant Officer on call if necessary.

Wildlife Crime

If your concern relates to wildlife crime e.g. badger baiting, poisoning of birds, destroying or disturbing bat roosts, releasing non-native species in to the wild, trapping wildlife illegally, trade in endangered species, deer poaching or other criminal activity, it should be reported to the PSNI on 101, or in an emergency 999. You can also report wildlife crime anonymously by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Animals on the Road

You should also contact the PSNI if animals are on the road.

Details of the enforcement roles and contact points are available at the nidirect website here

Further information on Animal Welfare is available from the DAERA website here

Animal Welfare Officers cover the whole of Northern Ireland working on a regional basis.

To report an animal welfare concern Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm contact the relevant regional office belowPlease note that phone calls and emails will only be responded to during office hours which are Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.

If an animal requires urgent attention, you may wish to contact a local vet. For matters relating to dog straying or dog attacks, please refer to your local council website.

Southern Region – Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council, Newry Mourne & Down District Council
T: 02837 515 800

Belfast City Council
T: 028 9027 0431

Eastern Region –Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, Ards & North Down District Council
T028 9244 7861

Northern Region – Mid & East Antrim District Council, Causeway Coast & Glens District Council, Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council
T: 028 2563 3134

Western Area – Fermanagh & Omagh, Derry & Strabane, Mid Ulster
T: 028 8225 6226