Without legislation to protect our animals, the people who continue to abuse and neglect them will repeatedly escape justice and conviction for these crimes. Legislation is one of the major cornerstones of animal welfare but, without enforcement of the law, these people will never be penalised, or forced to change.

The Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013 (pdf) came out in March 2013 – four years after it’s promised publication in 2009. We’ll be publishing updates in the coming months so keep an eye out for our Legislation posts.

Irish Animal Welfare Legislation

Animals Need a Voice In Legislation (ANVIL) Ireland  was formed to raise the profile of animals in Ireland and ensure they are adequately protected in legislation. Their pages were an excellent and up-to-date source of information on Irish legislation including links to legislation alongside explanatory notes, and quick links to the same legislation. I wish I had reproduced their excellent work here because, unfortunately, in Jan 2013 ANVIL disappeared, and their wonderful information with them. Gone but not Forgotten.

In 2020 a new animal legislation site appeared – Irish Animal Law – an awareness resource for those interested in animal welfare legislation & enforcement in Ireland. We hope to see it thrive and grow.

Here are some links to legislation you might find useful:

Cats in Ireland

Extract from Pete the Vet on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show 

Pet cats are protected in Irish law. Under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2014 (sic), cats, just like dogs, are  “protected animals”, which are defined as “any creatures in the possession or under the control of a human being”, whether permanently or on a temporary basis.

This means that if you are looking after a cat, you have a legal duty to protect its welfare. You must take all necessary steps to ensure that the cat is kept and treated in a manner which safeguards its health and welfare. You have to provide adequate food, water and shelter, and you must take precautions to protect the health of the cat. It’s against the law to allow a cat to fall ill and to fail to seek treatment. You also have a responsibility to ensure that you do not leave a cat unattended without making adequate provisions for its welfare. Finally, it’s an offence to abandon an animal. You cannot just “stray” a cat because you don’t want it any more.

In contrast, if a cat is living  “in a wild state”, then they are no longer classified as a “protected animal”. This is logical: by definition, it is impossible for any animal in the wild to be under control of a human being. Who could be held accountable for housing, feeding and caring for a free-living cat in the wild? However, although community cats are not “protected”, this only means that nobody has a duty to care for them.

Community cats are still protected from cruelty, just like all other animals in Ireland. To spell it out explicitly, under Irish law, any act, or failure to act, that causes unnecessary suffering or endangers the health and welfare of any animal is an offence.

Regardless of their legal status, the best answer for feral cat colonies is for them to be managed properly by humans,  with Trap Neuter Return (TNR) schemes to control population levels so that there’s enough food and shelter for all.

See our TNR pages for more information.

Irish Animal Rescue Legislation

Ireland has no specific legislation, nor any guidelines, for rescues. However US Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters exist, written by the US Association of Shelter Veterinarians – something to strive towards from an ethical standpoint, if not a legal one.


And thanks to ANVIL Ireland for the splendid picture!

Those of us at the heart of the animal law movement envision a world in which the lives and interests of all sentient beings are respected within the legal system, where companion animals have good, loving homes for a lifetime, where wild animals can live out their natural lives according to their instincts in an environment that supports their needs – a world in which animals are not exploited, terrorized, tortured or controlled to serve frivolous or greedy human purposes.
Joyce Tischler, Executive Director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund

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