Have you ever wondered what your obligations as a dog owner are?

I think it is fair to assume that most dog owners are aware of their obligation to have a dog licence.  This obligation is provided for in the Control of Dogs Act, 1986, as amended. It applies to all pups over 4 months old and to younger pups where they have left their mother. A person must be over 16 to get a dog licence and they can be purchased from the post office or a local Authority.  An ‘individual’ dog licence can be purchased in the post office for €20.  It applies to one dog and must be renewed every 12 months.  A ‘general’ or ‘lifetime’ licence can be obtained from the local authority.  A ‘general’ licence is specific to the owner of dog kennels as it allows you have an unspecified number of dogs at designated premises. It costs €400 and lasts for 12 months at a time. A ‘lifetime’ licence is a new type of licence introduced since the 1st January, 2012 and is a once-off licence purchased for the lifetime of a specific dog and costs €140.  It is an offence not to have a dog licence for which dog wardens can issue an on the spot fine of €32.  If this is unpaid a person can be prosecuted by the local authority in the District Court where the penalties are a fine of up to €1269.74 and/or 3 months imprisonment.

Did you know that when a person takes their dog out in a public place they have an obligation to ensure that they clean up when the dog fouls?  This duty extends further to the point where a person must dispose of the dirt in a “suitable sanitary manner”.  This is set out in Section 22 of the Litter Pollution Act, 1997 which defines a public place to include areas such as a public road, a beach, a school ground, sports ground, playing field, recreational or leisure area.  If you think about these public areas, within your own locality, most people would probably agree that this law is not being strictly adhered to and obviously this can have an adverse effect on the area and the environment in general.  It is an offence not to clean up after your dog which is punishable by an on the spot fine of €150 or a fine of up to €3000 if you are  prosecuted through the District Court.  The responsibility for enforcing this law rests with the local authority but any individual can make a complaint to the District Court against the owner or person in charge of a dog where they allow the dog to foul in a public place and fail to clean up after them.

A dog owner also has a responsibility to ensure that their dog does not create a nuisance by excessive barking. This is set out in the Control of dogs Act, 1986, as amended. If a person’s quality of life is affected by such barking they can make an application to the District Court to have the issue addressed.  The Court has a number of options as to how to deal with such complaints and will take into account the circumstances of each case particularly, the effect the noise complained of is having on other people, such as neighbours.  The Court can for instance suggest control measures to see if this will prove successful in abating the noise levels or it could restrict the number or type of dogs that can be kept on premises at any one time.  In some cases the Court can order the removal of a dog from premises.  This usually occurs where the barking is continuous and excessive and there appears to be no other solution to the problem. This can obviously be a very stressful and upsetting time for the dog owner and their family as usually a dog becomes a family pet and forms an integral part of the family.  It is important therefore, if you have a dog that could potentially be causing a nuisance, to take steps to deal with the issue as soon as possible and to the satisfaction of possible affected persons.

The above are just some of the onerous obligations that flow from owning or being in charge of a dog. It is clear that It is a big responsibility which should not be underestimated! And remember a dog is a friend for life………..