Lost and stray dogs

A dog is a stray if it is without its owner and in a public place (or a private place where it's not allowed). Find out what to do if you find a stray, what happens when one is captured and what to do if your dog goes missing.

Reporting a stray dog

If you find a stray dog you should do one of the following:

  • contact the owner if possible - if the dog is wearing a collar it should have the owner's contact details
  • contact your council - they will arrange for a dog warden to collect the dog
  • contact the PSNI – they will arrange for the dog to be collected

Dog wardens are experts in capturing stray dogs. They use scanners to check if the dog has a microchip (containing the owner's contact details).  They can also check the dog’s collar as it's a legal requirement that all dogs wear a collar that has the owner's contact details either on the collar or on a plate or badge attached to it. 

Most dog warden services are only available in office hours.  If you find a stray dog outside office hours, your council's website should give details of where you can take it. There may also be an out-of-hours contact number.

If you wish you may keep a stray dog temporarily in your home while trying to contact the owner or the dog warden service (which you must do).

It may be possible to buy the dog if its owner is not traced or does not claim the dog within five days. You should tell the dog warden if you would like to buy the dog.

When a stray dog is seized

If your dog strays and is seized by a council dog warden you may be issued with a warning, a caution or a fixed penalty fine. You may even be prosecuted and fined up to £1,000.

The dog warden may also impose one or more control conditions designed to improve how you manage your dog.

If your dog is seized and you cannot be located, your dog will be taken to the council pound (or a pound operated by a third party on behalf of the council). If you have not claimed your dog within five days, or you cannot be identified or located, your dog may be put down or sold.

If you claim your seized dog within five days, you will have to pay for the cost of keeping your dog in the pound and any veterinary fees, as well as any fixed penalty imposed, before your dog will be released to you. If you do not pay the necessary sum within a period set by the council, your dog may be put down or sold.

Dog homes and animal shelters

Dog homes and animal shelters normally only take dogs that an owner no longer wants or cannot keep. Local councils will also take unwanted dogs and try to rehome them.  If the unwanted dog has to be destroyed, the owner of the dog can be asked to pay for this.

You can find your nearest dog home or animal shelter in your phone book or by searching online.

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