As a dog owner, you need to know about dog laws and your responsibilities to protect yourself and others around you.
Advice for dog owners
Watch our video for helpful hints and tips on how you can be a responsible dog owner. This video is one minute and 19 seconds long.
- All dogs must have a valid licence and wear identification with the name and address of their keeper.
- All dogs must also be fitted with a microchip.
If you do not license your dog you may receive a £80 fixed penalty notice.
Apply for a dog licence
Dogs in cars
It's important to care for your dog when taking them out by car during the warmer months. In as little as 15 minutes a dog could suffer heatstroke and die due to hot conditions in a car.
If your dog shows any symptoms of heatstroke, move him or her to a shaded, cool area and call your vet for advice immediately. Heatstroke can be fatal and should always be treated as an emergency.
Tips to keep your dog cool
- Make sure your dog is always able to move to a cooler, ventilated environment if they’re feeling hot.
- Never leave your dog alone in a glass conservatory or a caravan. Even if it’s cloudy when you leave, the sun may come out later in the day and make it unbearably hot.
- If your dog is outside you should provide a cool spot in the shade so they can escape the sun.
- Make sure your dog always has a supply of drinking water. If you’re out on a hot day, carry water with you and give your dog small amounts regularly.
- Walk your dog early in the morning or later in the evening so your dog isn’t exercising a lot in hot weather.
- Dogs with light coloured fur on their ears can get sunburnt. Ask your vet for advice on safe sunscreen.
Report a dog or animal welfare issue
The dog owner is responsible for cleaning up after their dog.
You should always pick up your dog waste and put it in the nearest litter bin. You can use any plastic bag and any litter bin, including your black bin at home. Don't put dog waste in your blue or brown bins as this can contaminate them.
If you do not pick up after your dog, you may receive a £80 fixed penalty notice. If paid within 10 days, the fine will be reduced to £50.
If you don’t pay this fine, we can take you to court where the fine could increase to up to £1,000.
- Carry a plastic bag or 'poop scoop' with you
- Teach your dog to go to the toilet in your garden before you leave home
- Don't let your dog onto the street to foul
- Respect dog-free areas
Report dog fouling
Report a dog fouling incident
All dogs must be fitted with a microchip before licensing. Microchipping helps to identify dogs if they go missing.
Where can I get my dog microchipped?
Most vets offer a microchipping service. Animal welfare groups such as the Dogs Trust (link opens in new window), can also fit dogs with chips.
How much does it cost?
Microchipping costs between £20 and £30.
Groups like the Dogs Trust sometimes offer free or reduced prices.
You must always be in control of your dog and not let it stray. If your dog is straying, you may receive a £80 fixed penalty notice. This covers the Belfast City Council area, including all parks and open spaces. Dogs must be kept on a lead when out in public.
You can help reduce the number of stray dogs on our streets by:
- fitting your dog with a microchip so it can be traced if it goes missing
- considering getting your dog neutered to prevent unwanted litters
- checking that you have a valid dog licence
Dogs in your control
When in public, you can not have more than four dogs under your control at any one time. If anyone is caught in control of more than four dogs at one time, they may receive a £80 fixed penalty notice.
The Dogs (Specified Maximum) (Belfast) Order 2012 was created under The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (NI) 2011 and covers the Belfast City Council area, including all parks and open spaces.
Dead animals and pets
If an animal dies in your house, you must make your own arrangements to dispose of it. You are allowed to bury pet animals.
You can report a dead animal on the road or street to our Street Cleansing team.
For more guidance about safe disposal of a dead animal, you can visit GOV.uk
Control of Greyhounds Act (Northern Ireland) 1950
There are specific requirements for greyhounds, whippet and lurcher type dogs.
- When exercised or led in a street or other public place, greyhounds must be kept under control and muzzled.
- No more than two greyhounds should be exercised or led by any one person in any street, road, highway or other public place.
Greyhound within the meaning of the legislation includes any greyhound or whippet and any breed, strain, or cross thereof. A lurcher is a cross-breed of a greyhound or whippet and therefore is covered by this legislation. Failure to comply with the above requirements may result in a £80 fixed penalty notice
Puppy buying guidance
Owning a puppy or dog is a big commitment and before you buy one, here are a few things to consider:
- What are you looking for in a dog? Is the dog needed as a guard dog, lapdog, or rescue dog?
- Do you have time and the means to walk, train, groom, feed, provide veterinary care and play with the dog?
The law says you must look after your animal by making sure it:
- has a proper diet, including fresh water
- has somewhere suitable to live
- is kept with or away from other animals, depending on its needs
- is allowed to express itself and behave normally
- is protected from, and treated for, illness and injury
Find out more about the RSPCA’s puppy contract and a “puppy information pack”