The control of dogs is regulated under The Dogs (NI) Order 1983 (as amended) and the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (NI) 2011 Legislation. Contravention of this legislation is a criminal offence which can often lead to large fines and in extreme cases custodial sentences on conviction.
Dogs being permitted to stray is often one of the building blocks to a more serious incident occurring. Often when a dog is unaccompanied by its keeper it displays different behavioural traits ranging from dominance to nervous aggression. Too often keepers have made the comment, “He has never done that before!” after an incident where the dog has exercised its own free will whilst straying. The term stray dog is defined as any dog which has left its keeper’s property unaccompanied by any person. Keepers who have been detected permitting their dogs to stray may receive a Fixed Penalty Notice for £80 or have legal proceedings initiated against them. The maximum penalty on summary conviction for a dog straying is £1000.
Dog attacks usually occur due to insufficient control and adequate supervision and confinement. The term dog attack not only relates to attacks on humans but also to other animals such as livestock, horses and domestic pets. The consequences of dog attacks can be quite severe, resulting in physical injury, fatalities and significant financial loss to local farmers. Under current dog control legislation the term dog attack on person is defined as “attacking a person or behaving in such a manner so as to cause a person apprehension of being attacked”. This means that dogs do not necessarily have to physically injure a person but if their aggressive behaviour towards a person causes them stress and fear of being attacked, this can be classified as a dog attack.
The penalties for dog attacks on people and animals can be severe when convicted in court. The maximum penalty for a dog attack on a person is a fine of £5000 and/or two years imprisonment. The maximum penalty for an attack on livestock or another animal is £1000. On both accounts the courts may also order the destruction of the dog involved. Dog owners also often find themselves paying personal injury or financial loss compensation to the injured or aggrieved party.
The problem of dog fouling is one of the most unacceptable issues issues raised by local residents in the community. It is not only unsightly but also generates a severe public health risk. Dog fouling can contain a harmful parasite called Toxocara canis which is commonly known as round worm. Toxocara live in the digestive tracks of dogs, cats and foxes and is highly zoonotic which means it can be transmitted to humans with severe consequences. Once dogs have defecated, the eggs from the Toxocara pass out with the faeces and contaminate the ground, especially soil and can lay dormant for a number of months until contracted by humans. On average Toxocara lay approximately 200, 000 eggs on a daily basis. The effects of Toxocara can range from high temperature, headaches, abdominal pain, fatigue, breathing difficulties and in worse case scenarios blindness in small children.
Fortunately, the eggs from Toxocara only become infectious after approximately 10 days which enables dog walkers to safely remove the dog faeces during their walk. The contraction of Toxocara is usually by digestion which puts younger children more at risk as they would tend to play in public area where there is the possibility of contaminated ground.
In order to help prevent contracting Toxocara it is essential that good hygiene practices are implemented such as washing hands after working in soil or handling pets. It is also essential that dog owners ensure that their dogs are vaccinated and treated against all disease and parasites by their local vets.
Under the Dog Control Orders applied through the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (NI) 2011, permitting dogs to foul in public areas without removing it is a criminal offence. Anyone detected committing this offence may receive a Fixed Penalty Notice of £80 or the matter may be presented to the courts where a maximum fine of £1000 can be imposed.
Barking dogs often generate a nuisance within the local community during all times of the day. There are a number of reasons why dogs bark ranging from boredom, health reasons, under stimulation to being territorial and protective of its property barking as passersby. Advice and guidance on dog barking can be downloaded below.
The regulation of barking dogs is enforced through noise pollution legislation and is investigated by the Environmental Health Department. Tel: 02894 463113.