Animal welfare

Owning and caring for an animal can be a source of great enjoyment. It is also a big responsibility. Find out how to take care of animals and what to do if you are concerned about an animal’s welfare.


Caring for animals

If you own or are responsible for an animal, you must make sure that all of its needs are met, including:

  • a suitable environment
  • a suitable diet
  • the opportunity to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • being  housed with, or apart from, other animals
  • being protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

The following tips and advice will help you to take care of your pet's needs and also highlights the rules that you need to be aware of in Northern Ireland:

If you fail to meet your pet's welfare needs or cause unnecessary suffering, you could be prosecuted.

Parents or guardians of children under 16 are responsible for any animal that child owns or is in charge of. If you can’t take care of your animal at any time, you must make arrangements for someone else to look after it.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has produced codes of practice to help you understand your animal’s needs.

If you are unsure about any aspect of taking care of an animal, you should seek advice from an expert. You can find your local veterinary practice using the link below.

If you're concerned about an animal’s welfare

If you are concerned that animals, including pets and farmed animals, are not being taken care of properly by their owners, you can report it. You can also report concerns about the welfare of wild animals, wildlife crime or criminal activity involving animals, such as dog fighting.

The organisation responsible depends on the type of animal involved and in some cases, the nature of the welfare issue. Find out who to contact below.

Pets and non-farmed animals – local councils

Contact your local council if you are concerned about the welfare of domestic pets, including horses, and non-farmed animals:

Farmed animals – DAERA

Contact DAERA if you are concerned about the welfare of farmed animals or animals kept in riding establishments, boarding kennels, pet shops or zoos.

Weekends – contact your local private veterinary practice or police station who will pass the information to a DAERA officer:

Wild animals and criminal activity involving animals - PSNI

Contact the PSNI if you are concerned about the welfare of wild animals or suspect wildlife crime, for example:

  • badger baiting
  • bird of prey persecution
  • destroying or disturbing bat roosts
  • release into the wild of a non-native species
  • trapping wildlife illegally
  • trade in endangered species
  • poisoning of birds
  • deer poaching

Also contact the PSNI if an animal (other than a wild animal) is wandering on the road or if an animal is being used for other criminal related activity, for example, dog fighting.

After you report a welfare concern

Officers investigating complaints can take a range of actions including giving advice, issuing verbal and written warnings, issuing improvement notices, taking animals into their possession and prosecution.

More useful links

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