All dogs in Northern Ireland are to be microchipped under tough new dog control rules proposed by Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew.
Almost 800 people were attacked by dogs in Northern Ireland last year, with 59 admitted to hospital. More than 8,000 stray dogs were impounded and more than 3,500 dogs put down.
The minister has outlined new proposals that will tighten the current dog control legislation, including making microchipping compulsory and making it easier for council dog wardens to set restrictions for particular dogs that have caused concern.
The cost of a dog licence will rise from £5 to £12.50, although with some exemptions, and it will become an offence for a dog to attack another dog.
“Many people here own and enjoy a dog as a pet in the family home and a companion on long walks,” Ms Gildernew said.
“Dogs are there to be loved, appreciated and cared for. And I have to say, in the main, owners do take responsibility for them and their behaviour.”
However, the minister warned that there are dog control problems across Northern Ireland.
“We read too often about dog attacks on people, young and old, and attacks on other dogs,” she said.
“There is a real risk that a child or vulnerable adult could be killed in a dog attack.
“I am determined to do everything I can to prevent that happening and that is why I intend to make important changes to the dog control legislation.”
Ms Gildernew said that, although the cost of most people’s dog licences will rise, “to protect older people... I am proposing that a dog licence is free for the first dog and pegged at the current level of £5 for each additional dog”.