Animal Welfare

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Animal Welfare

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.


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 the appropriate telephone number or email address relating to the region you live in, these are set out below. All messages will be forwarded to an Animal Welfare Officer on the next working day.

Please 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.

Belfast City Council

Telephone:  028 9027 0431

Eastern Region – Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, Ards & North Down Borough Council

Telephone:  028 92447861

Northern Region – Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council, Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council

Telephone:  028 2563 3134

Southern Region – Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council, Newry Mourne & Down District Council

Telephone:  028 3751 5800

Western Area – Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, Derry City & Strabane District Council, Mid Ulster District Council

Telephone:  028 8225 6226


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-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 PSNI who will, as necessary, refer the welfare complaint to the relevant “on call” officer.


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 Police non-emergency number 101 or in an emergency 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 0800 555 111.

Information on animal welfare and how to care for animals is available at