Authorised Officers

The Department of Agriculture may appoint/authorise officers of the Department to enforce the animal health and welfare legislation.  The local authority may appoint/authorise officers in respect of certain aspects of the legislation, in particular in respect of non-farm animals.

The Department may contract under service agreements for the conferral of authorised officer powers on a contractor.  In this latter case, the authorised officer’s powers do not extend to most farm animals kept for commercial farming or a horse kept on the farm.

Investigatory Powers

The authorised officer has extensive investigatory powers.  They may enter premises at all reasonable times where they have reasonable cause for believing an animal product or animal feed may be present or records are kept or where equipment, machinery or things used in connection with animals are situate.

They may examine any of these.  They may require details of name and address of a person in control of any of the above.  They may inspect vehicles, vessels, aircraft, equipment and machinery in connection with any of the above.

An authorised officer may require the owner or occupier or person-in-charge to produce records in his possession or under his control as are reasonably required.  He may inspect and take copies of records, including electronic records.  He may set equipment to capture or restrain an animal or carry out surveys or programs relating to animal welfare, health, or disease surveillance.

An authorised officer may require a person in possession or control of an animal in a public place to permit the animal to be examined by the officer or a veterinary practitioner.  He may require information for production of any records regarding ownership or identity of any of, an animal, animal product, animal feed, vehicle, vessel, equipment, machinery relating to an animal as is in that person’s possession knowledge or procurement.

Search Powers

Where an authorised officer has reasonable grounds for believing there is a risk of disease, a disease agent being present or an offence being or having been committed, or evidence of the same is on any land vehicle, premises or machinery, the officer may in addition to the above powers, search and enter the same.

He may require the vehicle to be stopped and may require information to be given regarding its journey, destination etc.  He may take samples or any of the same as are necessary.  He may seize and detain and mark an animal, animal product, animal feed, or any mark or identifier.

An officer may detain anything which he believes may be evidence of an offence or a suspected offence.  The officer may detain and seize the vehicle, vessel, equipment, machinery etc.  For the purpose of permitting further inspection or search, he  may require it to be moved to another location as is required.  He may remove any equipment, machinery, books or documents or records as are reasonably necessary for the exercise of his functions.

He may use reasonable force to enter land or premises to exercise his functions. Entry onto a private dwelling house requires a warrant unless there are reasonable grounds for believing that evidence may be otherwise disposed of or destroyed.

Arrest and Detention

Members of An Garda Siochana may arrest a person seen or found committing or reasonably suspected of engaging in or committing an offence under the legislation or under any regulations made thereunder without warrant.  A person so arrested must be taken to the Garda Siochana station and may be arrested or arrested and  detained in accordance with Criminal Justice Act.

Members of An Garda Siochana or customs and excise may, where they reasonably believe there is evidence that an offence is being committed, without warrant search the person or detain a person for search as is reasonably necessary.  They may search vehicles in which they believe evidence in relation to an offence may be found.  They may seize and detain evidence.

Provide Assistance and Information

A person who has an animal, animal product, animal feed, vehicle, vessel, equipment or machinery in connection with the same in his possession or under his control, or has information or records must give assistance to an authorised officer on being so requested as the officer may require for the exercise of his functions under the legislation.

The person, owner/occupier or  person in-charge of land or premises used in connection with any of the above must if required provide suitable equipment and facilities for an authorised officer.  An authorised officer may require a person to give information as to whether land is used either wholly or partly in connection with grazing or keeping of animals, the name of the person in occupation, and whether or not it is let.  If it is let, he may require particulars of the name and address and time of letting

An authorised officer may serve a animal health and welfare notice, requiring the owner or occupier and person in-charge or occupying land or possessing and controlling an animal, animal product or animal feed, or other person to take a specified action.  The notice may be served where the officers are of the opinion that there is a contravention of the animal health and welfare legislation or the animal, animal product or feed is or may be affected by disease.

Animal Welfare Notice

A person is not capable of taking care of a protected animal where the conditions under which an animal is kept, including methods of husbandry and the numbers kept on land are such as to give rise to injury or unnecessary suffering other risks to the welfare of the animal or another animal, pose or are likely to pose a threat to the health or welfare of an animal or another animal give rise to a risk of disease or the presence or outbreak of disease or impede efforts to control or eradicate a disease or a disease agent.

A person on whom a notice is served is entitled to appeal the notice to the District Court and must be so informed in the notice.  Subject to this, contravention is an offence and the notice must so specify.

There is a wide range of measures that may be required to be taken under an animal health or welfare notice.  It may require that an animal who was ill, injured or enduring unnecessary sufferings be cared for in a particular manner.  It may require  veterinary or other appropriate advice or treatment.  It may require that the animal be supplied with feed appropriate to its age, type, species and development.

Notice may require that an animal be given access to food and supplied with food and water or such liquids appropriate to its requirements. It may require that an animal be moved or not moved.  It may require alterations in the manner in which the animal is kept.  It may limit the number of animals that may be kept on land.  It may require the animal, animal product or feed to be killed or disposed of or destroyed.

A notice may prohibit or regulate an activity including restrictions of entry onto the land or premises.  It may require that a person in-charge of land dispose of an animal, animal product or animal feed.

Notice may prohibit the transportation or further transportation of animals, animal products or animal feed.  It may require persons to return animals to the place of departure by a direct route.  It may require alterations to lands or premises, vehicles, machinery or equipment.  It may require isolation and segregation for animals or animal products or feed.

It may require persons to carry on examinations or analysis.  It may require cleansing or disinfection.  It may require fixing of notices, warning of the presence of disease.

Appeal to District Court

An animal health and welfare notice must be complied with unless annulled by the District Court.  A person may not cause or permit another to contravene the notice.  Non-compliance or causing or permitting another to contravene the notice is an offence.

There is provision for an appeal to District Court within seven days of the notice being given.  The basis of the appeal is that the notice is unreasonable, having regard to the legislation.  The District Court may confirm, annul, or amend the order.  The notice of appeal does not permit a person to deal with a protected animal, product, feed, land or premises, means of transportation other than in accordance with the notice pending the appeal.


Where a person in-charge, owner, occupier or person in-charge of premises fails to comply with an animal health or welfare notice within the time specified,  or the authorised officer has reasons for believing it will not be complied with, the authorised officer may seize and detain the animal,  the product or animal feed.  Where seized the officer may destroy, dispose of the animal product, animal or feed so seized and take such other measures as may be appropriate.

The profits, if any from the sale, destruction or disposal or animal product, animal feed, means of transport or other thing are to be paid to the owner less any expenses incurred in connection with the seizure, detention, sale, destruction or disposal.  Costs may be recovered from the person concerned as a debt or by way of deduction from monies due from the Department of Agriculture.

The local authority may give a notice of the amount expended which is proposed to be charged up.  It must consider representations made.  Taking them into account, it may make a decision on the amount concerned.

There is provision for the issue of search warrants by the District Court where there are animals, animal product, feed, machinery equipment used or adopted for use in connection with an animal on land or premises and there is reasonable cause to suspect that it may contain evidence of the commission of an offence or that records are kept there.


There is a range of offences of obstructing, interfering with or impeding an authorised officer.  It is an offence to fail without reasonable cause to comply with requirements made or  to fail to give assistance required. It is an offence to make a false statement in connection with an application for any certificate or authorisation or in response to requirements by an authorised officer.

The legislation contains provisions for on the spot fines or fixed payment notices.  They may be used by the Department of Agriculture or local authorities. Fixed payment notices/on the spot fines may provide for payment of €250.  This sum may be increased to €1,000 by ministerial order.  If the fixed penalty notice is paid, the offence will not be prosecuted.

Subject to certain conditions, certificates of analysis or a sample by certain approved laboratories are presumptive  evidence of the matter certified.

In any prosecution under the legislation, the court is to order the defendant to pay the costs of the prosecution and expenses as measured by the court,  unless there are special and substantial reasons for not so doing.

Offences by bodies corporates can also be the subject of prosecutions against directors, managers, officers of the company where it is attributable to their default or wilful neglect, approval or connivance.

It is presumed that animals are owned by the occupier or person in-charge of the land or premises in which they are found.

Orders on Conviction

Where there are reasonable grounds for believing an offence has been committed, the animal product, feed or vehicle, vessel, aircraft, equipment or machinery used in connection with the animal product or feed may, on application before the appropriate court be ordered to be forfeited.  Where the estimated value exceeds €10,000 the District Court  may transfer the application to the Circuit Court or the High Court, whichever it considers appropriate.

On conviction for many of the offences under the legislation,(except in many cases, a first offence within the previous three years), the court may order the person

  • to be disqualified from owning, dealing with or  having an interest or controlling any animal, animal product or type
  • be disqualified from working with animals or having them under his charge or control or manufacture, import, prepare, handle, store, transport, sell or supply animals, animal product or feed of any class

for a period up to the life of the person concerned,  as the court considers appropriate.

Disqualifction and


After three months from the date of the disqualification and after such further period as the court may determine, the person may apply to court to vary or discharge the original order and the court may do so if there is good reason to do so.

Breach of the disqualification order is an offence. Where a court makes a disqualification order and it appears that  the person to whom the order applies, has or owns an animal contrary to the order, it may order that all animals that the person owns or has possessions of be delivered or seized in accordance with the order.

Where a person is convicted of an offence of breach of a disqualification order, the court may order that animals owned or kept in breach of the order are delivered, seized, detained, sold or disposed of.  The profits, in this case, are to be paid to the prosecutor.

On conviction of an offence contrary to animal health and welfare regulations the court may, on application, order the forfeiture to the prosecutor of  any animals to which the offence relates, and which are owned by the person convicted.  There are similar provisions in respect of persons who are unknown and untraceable.  The animals may be disposed of as the prosecutor thinks fit.

Order re Animals

An application may be made by the Department of Agriculture, HSE or local authority, member of An Garda Siochana, relative or spouse, that having regard to medical evidence that a person, because of physical or mental infirmity, addiction to drugs or intoxicants or a personality disorder is incapable of taking care of an animal or an animal of a particular class or description or is incapable of carrying out its duties under the legislation.

On such application, the court may order that the animal which the person has in his control be sold or otherwise disposed of.  It may limit the number of animals that that person may hold or of a particular class may hold.  It may order that the person refrain from purchasing or having in his possession animals generally are of a particular class.

It may order the person to refrain from any particular activity in relation to animals.  It may order that food or liquid specified be provided, with care, including veterinary treatment be provided.  It may order bio-security measures be put in place in respect of land or premises or animals in the person’s control.  It may order that another manages the land or premises and animals where the animals are located.

It may make such other measures as the judge considers appropriate having regard to the need to protect the health and welfare of the animal to avoid injury and unnecessary suffering or to prevent the spread of disease.  The application is heard in private. The costs are paid by the person concerned if an order is made against him unless the court is satisfied there were special and substantial reasons for not so doing.


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Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

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