Dog owners in the UK haven’t had to buy a dog licence since 1987. However, dog owners in Northern Ireland are still required to get a licence for their dog and dogs are required to wear a licence tag. Furthermore, dogs must wear identity tags with the owner’s contact details.
You have to renew your dog licence every year and you can licence up to three dogs. A single dog licence currently costs £12.50. You can apply for a dog licence online or via post.
Pensioners (65 years and older) get their first licence free and then pay only £5 for any other dogs. The cost of a dog licence is also only £5 if owners receive income support, housing benefits or if dogs are sterilised.
Licences aren’t necessary for puppies younger than six months old (and if they live with their mother), assistance dogs and police dogs.
Block licences for breeders and kennels cost £32 (if breeding or boarding three or more dogs). Breeders must be registered with the Kennel Club or another approved organisation.
Not having a licence or displaying a tag incurs an £80 fine (reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days).
The situation in the UK
Some organisations (RSPCA) believe that if dog licences become compulsory in the UK again, it will make dog owners more responsible for their dogs and improve dogs’ welfare. This, according to Dogs Trust, is debatable, especially as few people bother to obey the law and licence their dogs. Estimates put compliance with dog licensing laws at less than 50% in the UK before they were abolished and at around 33% currently in Northern Ireland.
The best way to address animal welfare is through public education and legislation that deals effectively with cases of abuse and neglect.
Dogs Trust also believes in the effectiveness of permanent identification and suggests that it be made compulsory for all dogs to be microchipped. Getting your dog microchipped costs around £10 and, unlike annual dog licences, it’s a once-off fee.