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Explanatory Memorandum to Dangerous Wild Animals (Northern Ireland) Order 2004

Article 3: Licences

This Article, in essence, forms the core of the legislation. It prohibits any person from keeping a DWA without a licence granted by the Department. It forms the basis for the licensing scheme and deals with applications for, and grant of, licences. The purpose is to ensure, first and foremost, that public safety is protected. The Order also seeks to protect the general well being of a DWA by requiring appropriate standards for its accommodation, food and exercise that are appropriate to its species. It is intended that if private individuals wish to keep a DWA, then they must only do so under controlled conditions.

Paragraph (1) requires any person who keeps or intends to keep a DWA to have a licence granted by the Department. Therefore, all existing owners of a DWA at the time that the legislation comes into operation, or potential new owners thereafter, will need to make an application to the Department for approval to keep the DWA. It also specifies that this requirement does not apply in exempted cases that are identified in Articles 6(7), 7 and 9(9). It is intended that anyone who keeps a DWA without a licence will be committing an offence from the moment they take possession of the DWA. Therefore, licences should be obtained before a DWA is acquired.

Paragraph (2) specifies that an application for a licence can only be made by someone who is 18 years of age or more and by someone who has not been disqualified from keeping a DWA under Article 10(2). It also specifies what information must be provided in the application that has to be accompanied by the appropriate fee, which the Department will prescribe by an order.

Paragraph (3) specifies the appraisal process that the Department must complete before it can consider granting a licence. It must be satisfied about a number of matters, including:

  • that granting any licence will not be contrary to the public interest in terms of safety, nuisance or otherwise, as considered appropriate;

  • that the applicant is a suitable person to keep a DWA. This recognises that a level of responsibility is associated with the keeping of a DWA and the potential threat to public safety and the welfare of the DWA if an owner, for whatever reason, cannot look after the DWA properly; and

  • that the conditions in which a DWA will be kept and the arrangements for its welfare, are appropriate. As well as seeking to ensure the general well being of a DWA, these requirements will promote responsible ownership.

Paragraph (4) requires the Department to ensure that the application is made by a person who both owns and possesses (or intends to both own and possess) the DWA. The intention is to avoid any possible loophole where someone could argue that they are exempt from the requirements of the Order. The Department can waive this requirement, but only where, in its opinion, there are exceptional circumstances.

Paragraph (5) stipulates that the Department cannot grant a licence unless a suitably qualified person (for example, a veterinary surgeon), who the Department has authorised under Article 5, has inspected the premises where a DWA will be or is being kept and the Department has considered a report of the results of the inspection. This recognises the need for a qualified opinion on compliance with the standards referred to at paragraph (3).

Paragraph (6) empowers the Department, subject to limitations contained in paragraphs (2) to (5), to grant or refuse to grant a licence, as it considers appropriate. Where it grants a licence the Department must attach a number of mandatory conditions to the licence, concerned with matters such as:

  • placing restrictions on the numbers and types of DWA that may be kept, the persons who can keep the DWA, the premises where the DWA may be kept, and its movement;

  • requiring the licence-holder to have appropriate insurance cover against liability for any damage or injury the DWA may cause, and to provide a copy of a licence to anyone else authorised to keep the DWA;

  • requiring the licence-holder to notify the Department in the event of the birth of offspring, or the sale, disposal or death of a DWA; and

  • determining the steps to be taken in the event of the escape of a DWA.

The Department can apply any other conditions to the licence that it may consider appropriate in order to achieve the objectives sought by sub-paragraphs (c) to (f) of paragraph (3), concerned with the welfare of a DWA.

Paragraph (7) also empowers the Department to apply any other conditions to a licence that it may consider appropriate.

Paragraph (8) gives the Department the power to vary the conditions of a licence at any time by adding new conditions. It can revoke any condition, with the exception of those conditions specified in paragraph (6), and it can vary any condition, except the condition requiring a DWA to be kept at the premises specified in the licence.

Paragraph (9) enables any variation to the conditions of a licence requested by the licence-holder to take effect immediately, once approved by the Department. Any variation initiated by the Department will not take effect until the licence-holder has been informed of the variation and given a reasonable time to comply with it.

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