Find out about dog licensing, where to get a dog licence, how much dog licences cost, and how long they are valid. You can also find details on 'block licences', and what could happen if you do not have a dog licence
Change to dog licensing requirements
From 1 January 2015, changes to the law mean that microchipping will be the only method of identification of dogs. The coloured licence tags issued by local councils will no longer be used.
The changes also require dog owners to make sure that their contact information on the microchip databases is kept up to date, for example when the dog owner changes address or telephone number.
Dog owners must still make sure that their name and address is inscribed on the dog’s collar or on a plate or badge attached to it.
It is an offence to own an unlicensed dog, unless the dog is:
- a puppy under six months old and kept by the person who was also the keeper of the bitch that gave birth to the puppy
- an assistance dog used by a disabled person
- a dog kept, and on offer for sale, in a licensed pet shop
- a police dog
- a dog kept under a block licence, on the premises to which the block licence relates
Domestic pet dogs must be licensed individually.
A dog licence costs £12.50. There are reduced licence fees for some dog owners.
A dog licence lasts for 12 months. Application forms for a dog licence, or for the renewal of a dog licence, are available from council offices and in many cases on the website of your local council.
In certain circumstances, the owner of three or more dogs may apply for a ‘block licence’ at an annual fee of £32.
A block licence is available to an owner of three or more dogs kept on the same premises, as long as they are three unsterilised bitches and one of them is used for breeding, or the premises are registered guard dog kennels, or the three dogs are registered with one of the following bodies:
- the Kennel Club
- the Irish Coursing Club
- the Masters of Foxhounds Association
- the Masters of Harriers and Beagles Association
- the Northern Ireland Masters of Hounds Association
- the International Sheep Dog Society
Refunds and discount
If you are issued with a licence but do not take possession of the dog, or dispose of it within 30 days of the date the licence was issued, or the dog dies within 30 days of the issue date of the licence, you can apply for a refund of the licence fee.
If you are 65, you do not need to pay a fee to license one dog. If you are 65 and have more than one dog, you are eligible for a reduced licence fee of £5 for those other dogs.
You are also eligible for a reduced rate licence if you are on certain benefits at the date on which you apply for the licence. The benefits are:
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit
You may be asked to prove that you are receiving the benefit.
The £5 licence fee is also available if the dog has been neutered. You may be asked to prove this with a vet’s certificate.
Since 1 January 2013 all dogs in Northern Ireland must be microchipped at eight weeks old.
All dogs must be microchipped before an owner applies for a dog licence.
Block licence holders are required to keep records which include:
- microchip details of each dog kept at the premises
- date of sale, transfer or death of any dog
- the name and address of the person to whom any dog is sold or transferred
- the new keeper’s dog licence or block licence number
All Information about the sale, transfer or death of any dog should be recorded within seven days of its sale, transfer or death.
Dog collars and collar tags
Dogs other than working dogs must wear a collar with the owner's name and address inscribed on it, or on a plate attached to the collar. It is a legal requirement that dogs must also wear a coloured collar tag or disc showing that the dog is licensed. This coloured licence identification tag is issued by your council when you apply for your annual dog licence. The colour of the licence identification tag changes every year.
Failure to ensure that your dog wears the appropriate collar identification is an offence which could result in a maximum fine of £1,000.
Collar tags are not needed for:
- a dog which is a member of a pack of hounds
- a dog being judged in a competition
- a dog is being used for any sporting purposes, the capture or destruction of vermin or for the purpose of driving or tending sheep or cattle
If you do not have a valid licence
Keeping a dog without a valid licence may result in:
- a warning
- a formal caution
- a fixed penalty or prosecution
- a fine of up to £1,000
It is also an offence to take possession of a dog (whether you paid for it or not) before you have obtained a licence for it. You can be prosecuted for this offence and may be liable to a maximum fine of £1,000. The person who gave or sold you the dog is also guilty of an offence.
When you cannot hold a dog licence
If you are under 16 years old, or if you have been disqualified from keeping animals under animal welfare legislation, you are disqualified from obtaining or holding a dog licence.