A senior Stormont Minister has pointed out that dog attacks on cats were criminalised in Northern Ireland during the last Assembly term with dog owners now liable to face a £1,000 fine if their pooch steps out of line: prior to 2011 dogs could attack cats with impunity.
Dog Control Minister Michelle O’Neill has outlined that her Department acted on the matter at the start of the last mandate.
Asked what “laws deal with dog attacks on cats” by outgoing DUP MP Alex Easton, she replied: “Dog control here is legislated for by the Dogs Order 1983, which as amended by the Dogs (Amendment) Act 2011 to include a number of new provisions.
“These include an offence of setting a dog on any other animal (including cats) owned by another person, which on summary conviction can lead to a fine not exceeding £2,500; and allowing a dog to attack and injure any other animal (including cats) owned by another person, which on summary conviction can lead to a fine not exceeding £1,000. Prior to these provisions, which came into operation on 28 July 2011, it was not an offence to allow a dog to attack and injure an animal, excluding livestock, owned by another person.”
The Minister also pointed out how, under separate legislation, dog owners are liable to face far heavier penalties if guilty of causing unnecessary suffering.
“In addition, the Welfare of Animals Act 2011 (the 2011 Act) protects the welfare of companion animals such as cats and dogs.
“A person found guilty of an offence of causing unnecessary suffering is liable to a maximum sentence on conviction on indictment of up to 2 years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine, or on summary conviction of up to 6 months imprisonment and/or a £5,000 fine.
“The Final Report of the Review of the Implementation of the 2011 Act, which was published on 29 February 2016, recommended that the maximum sentences are increased to 5 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine upon conviction on indictment, and for the more serious summary offences, to 12 months imprisonment and/or a £20,000 fine. These amendments to the 2011 Act are being taken forward in the Justice (No. 2) Bill.”