From Monday October 3, dog owners across Northern Ireland will be subject to new rules brought in by the Northern Ireland Assembly under the provisions of the Dogs (Amendment) Bill.
The new rules, which mainly deal with dog licence fees, fixed penalty notices and control conditions for problem dogs, are being introduced in order to ensure more robust dog control legislation is in operation in Northern Ireland.
From next month, individual dog licence fees will increase from £5 to £12.50. Dog owners aged 65 or over are entitled to a free licence for one dog but they must still apply for a licence. Anyone in receipt of certain benefits or whose dog has been neutered or spayed can qualify for a reduced licence fee of £5 provided that they can show proof of this.
From next year, it will be compulsory for all dogs to be microchipped. Anyone who applies for a licence after 1 April 2012 will be asked to provide their dog’s microchip number as a licence will not be able to be issued without the microchip number. A free microchipping service to help all dog owners prepare for this requirement is currently available to dog owners through participating veterinary practices and is supported by the Council and the Dogs Trust. Although this free service will be available until April, all owners are being advised to microchip their dogs as soon as possible. Microchipping is not a replacement for a dog licence, rather it is part of responsible dog ownership and provides extra means of identification of the dog should it stray, get lost or be stolen.
The Dogs Trust will also be visiting the district between 17 and 20 October to offer free microchipping to dog owners. Further details about the roadshow will be published at a later date.
The fixed penalty for failing to properly control or keep a dog is increasing to £75, and this can be issued against anyone who allows their dog to stray, does not hold a valid dog licence, or whose dog does not wear a collar, name tag and licence tag. This is a substantial increase on the existng level of fixed penalty and the Council intends to continue to issue fixed penalties where offences have been committed, especially for dog straying and for having no valid licence.
Probably the most sweeping change relates to giving local councils the powers to impose certain conditions on the licence of individual dogs in order to control problem behaviour such as straying, attacking livestock or a person. The range of control conditions available include: keeping a dog on a lead and/or muzzled when in public; keeping a dog away from certain specified public places; keeping a dog securely confined; a requirement to neuter male dogs; or a requirement for the owner to complete a training course.
The Council has been advising dog owners of these new changes to licensing, and will soon be starting a programme of work to pursue owners with an unlicensed dog. If your current dog licence has expired, it is recommended that you renew it before 3 October 2011 as you will be charged the new rate from this date.
For further information about the changes to dog licensing, contact the Council’s Environmental Health Department on 4066 0606.