Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011

From the 2nd of April 2012, District Councils have had responsibility for enforcement of the powers in the Welfare of Animals (NI) Act 2011, in respect of non-farmed animals’ e.g. domestic pets of any vertebrate species and equines (horses and donkeys).

Local Councils have adopted a collaborative regional approach to the new legislation and have appointed Animal Welfare Officers to enforce animal welfare in respect of non-farmed animals only across Northern Ireland. The Officers have statutory enforcement powers and can take a range of action to improve the welfare of non-farmed animals including, providing advice, issuing an improvement notice, taking animals into their possession(in extreme cases of suffering), and initiating prosecution action. IIt should be emphasised that the responsibility for the welfare of any animal remains at all times with the owner or keeper of an animal. Enforcement officers will investigate complaints and ensure the owner complies with the legislation. Rehoming of animals that are unwanted should be dealt with through a sanctuary or relevant charity.

The enforcement officers cover the whole of Northern Ireland working on a regional basis. If you need to report an animal welfare issue during office hours Monday – Friday 9am-5pm you should contact the appropriate telephone number relating to the region you live in. Between 9am and 5pm at weekends and over holiday periods contact the same number and your call will be diverted to an answering service.

To download the Animals Welfare Act (NI) 2011 Information brochure Click here


Welfare complaints in respect of farmed animals (that is animals bred or kept for the production of food, wool or skin or other farming purposes) should be referred to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. During office hours Monday to Friday 9am-5pm telephone - 0300 200 7840 . At weekends for Farmed animal complaints contact a local Private Veterinary Practice or PSNI who will, as necessary, refer the welfare complaint to the relevant “on call” officer.

If your call relates to Wildlife crime for example, Badger Baiting, poisoning of birds, deer poaching etc or if an animal is on the road or criminal activity please contact your local PSNI Station on 101, if urgent please call 999.

Details of the enforcement roles and contact points can be accessed using the link below.