Guide to the Animal Health and Welfare Act, 2013

Please note that these guides do not constitute legal advice and any information provided in the guides should not be construed as legal advice or legal interpretation. We do not accept any liability for any loss caused by your reliance on this guide.

The Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 was introduced in March 2014 and replaces the 1911 and 1966 Acts.

While in the past animal welfare and animal health may have been seen as separate issues, the Act recognises that they are closely related and in many cases inter-dependent.

New features include:

Responsible ownership

  • Clarity in relation to the sale of animals to minors - it is an offence to sell an animal to a person under the age of 16 years
  • Clarity on abandonment of animals - it is an offence to abandon protected animals
  • Clear responsibilities on owners of animals to provide for the 5 freedoms

Freedom from...

- hunger and thirst,
- discomfort,
- pain, injury and disease
- fear and distress,
- and freedom to exhibit natural behaviour


  • Greater power to intervene in advance of potential welfare situations rather than waiting for problems to occur
  • Judges will be granted specific powers to prevent persons convicted of cruelty to, or failing to protect the welfare of animals from owning or working with animals
  • Department Animal Welfare Helpline Lo-call Helpline provided 1850 211 990 and dedicated email address to report instances where animal welfare may be compromised. All calls received are treated in confidence and are followed up by authorised officers
  • Close collaboration with Gardai


  • In the case of dog fights, the range of evidence which courts can consider has been expanded to include attendance at a dog fight, which should make conviction easier
  • General ban on the docking of dogs tails and the removal of dew claws – certain restricted exceptions
  • Introduction of regulation to make micro-chipping of dogs compulsory by 2016


  • New rules on the transfer of ownership of horses and updated rules on premises registration


  • Increased penalties – summary conviction up to €5,000 and on indictment €250,0000 and/or imprisonment up to 5 years
  • Fixed penalty payments for lesser offences

Other related regulations that have been introduced include:

The Prohibition on Tail Docking and Dew Claws (Dogs) Regulations 2014

This regulates the limited circumstances under which a dog may have its tail docked or dew claws removed. Read about DoneDeal's policy on tail docking.

Pet Passport Regulations

The Pet Passport Regulations 2014 contain provisions on the movement of certain pet animals (dogs, cats, ferrets), both within the EU and from third countries, primarily to guard against the threat of rabies.