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Excerpts from the Irish ISPCA Legal Handbook:

You can download the entire handbook here.

Q.1 Is it an offence for a person to let animals loose onto the streets?

It is an offence to abandon animals or to allow them to stray or cause mischief on the public roadway.

Section 1 (f) of the Protection of Animals Act, 1911 (inserted by Section 4 of the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act, 1965) introduced a further category of general cruelty which arises; –

“(Where) being the owner or having charge or control of any animal [a person] shall without reasonable cause or excuse abandon it, whether permanently or not, in circumstances likely to cause it unnecessary suffering, or cause or procure or, being the owner, permit it to be so abandoned.”

Under Section 10 (1) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Ireland) Act, 1851 (as amended by the Section 36 of the Control of Dogs Act, 1986) it is an offence for:-

“Any person who shall in any public road or street of a town turn loose any horse or cattle or who by negligence or ill usage in driving cattle shall in any public road or any street of a town cause any mischief to be done by such cattle, shall be liable to a fine..”

The original version of Section 10 (1) had also included provisions relating to dogs, but these were repealed with the introduction of the more comprehensive Control Of Dogs Act, 1986 (See Chapter 11 on Dogs)

Section 10 (11) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Ireland) Act, 1851 (as amended by the Section 4 (4) of the Animals Act, 1985) provides that:-

“Any person who shall allow any swine or other beast to wander upon any public road, or about the streets or passages of any town, shall be liable on summary conviction, in the case of a first offence under this paragraph, to a fine not exceeding £150 and, in the case of a second or subsequent such offence, to a fine not exceeding £350”

The term “beast” is not defined in the Act, although the section, as initially enacted, set out separate offences in relation to cattle, horses or dogs left at large in public places.

Q.2 What can an individual do if he encounters a wandering or stray animal?

Given the often serious consequences both to the animals and to members of the public when animals are abandoned or are left to wander, members of the public should report such sightings to the Gardai or, alternatively, the individual may take matter into his or her own hands. This is one of the very few instances in which a member of the public may act of their own volition.

Section 10 (11) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Ireland) Act, 1851 (as amended by the Section 4 (4) of the Animals Act, 1985) provides that: –

“Any person who shall allow any swine or other beast to wander upon any public road, or about the streets or passages of any town, shall be liable on summary conviction, in the case of a first offence under this paragraph, to a fine not exceeding £150 and, in the case of a second or subsequent such offence, to a fine not exceeding £350″…and in the case the owner shall not be known, it shall be lawful for any person by whom any such swine or beast shall be found wandering upon any such road, street, or passage, to impound the same.”

The crucial aspect of Section 10 (11) is that, where the owner is not known, a citizen may impound an animal found wandering in public. It should be noted that this section does not apply to the Gardai and other State authorities whose powers are specified under that Act and elsewhere.

Note: Dogs are probably the most common type of animal found straying. There is a discussion as to the steps to be taken in respect of stray dogs under Chapter 11 dealing with dogs.

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