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.
- Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council
- Ards and North Down Borough Council
- Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council
- Belfast City Council
- Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council
- Derry City and Strabane District Council
- Fermanagh and Omagh District Council
- Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council
- Mid and East Antrim Borough Council
- Mid Ulster District Council
- Newry, Mourne and Down District 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 at least three are unsterilised bitches, which between them breed less than 3 litters in a 12 month period, or the premises are registered guard dog kennels, or where at least 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 aged 65 or over, you do not need to pay a fee to license one dog. If you are aged 65 or over 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 income related benefits at the date on which you apply for the licence. The benefits are:
- State Pension Credit
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit
- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Working Tax Credit
You may be asked to prove that you are receiving the benefit.
The £5 licence fee is also available if the dog has been sterilised. You may be asked to prove this with a vet’s certificate.
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.
Dog owners are responsible for ensuring that the contact details held against their dog’s microchip number are accurate. If the details are not accurate, the dog is not considered as microchipped and the dog licence will not be valid.
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 identification
Dogs, other than those mentioned below, must wear a collar with the owner's name and address inscribed on it, or on a plate or badge attached to the collar.
It is an offence if your dog does not wear the right collar identification and 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 being used for any sporting purposes, the capture or destruction of vermin or for driving or tending sheep or cattle
If you don't 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.
Dog breeding licence
If you keep only one or two breeding bitches, you do not need a dog breeding licence.
Hunt clubs and charities also don’t need a licence to keep a breeding establishment.
Find out when you do need a dog breeding licence at the link below:
More useful links
- Dogs - everything you need to know about keeping a dog in Northern Ireland
- Places to walk your dog: Forests, Nature Reserves, Country Parks, Parks and green spaces
- Find out how to care for cats, rabbits, chickens, birds, horses and more