World Stamps

By David A. Norris

Irish revenues for rover: 1866 act gave rise to dog license stamps

October 09, 2016 09:00 AM

  • Dog owners in Ireland paid a 2-shilling tax for each dog between 1866 and 1922.
  • Each Irish dog license between 1866 and 1922 needed 2 shillings’ worth of stamps for each dog, plus a 6-penny stamp like this one showing Queen Victoria for the license document itself.
  • The fee per dog was raised to 4 shillings in 1919. This 4sh stamp is overprinted “Northern Ireland."

By David A. Norris

The Dogs Regulation Act for Ireland was passed by the British Parliament in 1865 and took effect Jan. 1, 1866.

Passage of this act created a new revenue stamp collecting specialty.

Every year, dog owners in Ireland had to obtain new licenses for their animals. The cost was 2 shillings for each dog, plus 6 pence for each license.

Payments were represented by affixing revenue stamps to the license forms. Thus, each Irish dog license had two different kinds of stamps: one for the dog, and one for the license itself.

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Owners of more than one dog had to buy a 2sh stamp for each animal, so examples exist of license documents with multiples of those stamps.

However, no matter how many dogs one owned, the license required only one 6-penny stamp.

The 1866 act was a response to countless complaints of livestock killings that were blamed on loose dogs.

Police stations and courts of petty sessions kept registry books with descriptions of dogs, with the names and addresses of their owners.

Hundreds of Irish dog registry books dating from 1866 to 1922 still exist. These annually updated lists of dog owners are extensive enough to make a useful genealogical resource.


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There were two different types of dog license stamps.

What one might call the “dog tax” was paid with pictorial revenues showing an Irish wolfhound.

Pictured here is a used 2sh Irish Wolfhound dog license stamp. “License Two Shillings” appears across the bottom of the stamp.

The 2sh stamps are the most common, but there were also 10sh and 20sh stamps to accommodate owners of multiple dogs. In 1919, the fee was raised to 4sh per dog, and stamps were redesigned to reflect the new 4sh rate. The 6p stamps were petty sessions revenue stamps, overprinted with the words “for dog licence.”

Until Irish independence in 1922, these stamps appeared with portraits of Queen Victoria, Edward VII, and George V.

After Irish independence, dog license revenues remained in use in Northern Ireland. The “per dog” stamp fee rose to 4sh. These later stamps appear with overprints reading “Northern Ireland.” Petty sessions stamps of Northern Ireland picturing George V and George VI were overprinted “for dog licence.”

After decimalization, a 20p stamp with Elizabeth II’s portrait appeared in 1971. Dog license stamps were eliminated in 1983.

Irish dog licenses, with their revenue stamps, show up fairly often on eBay and might also be found in the dealers’ stocks of revenue stamps as well as paper ephemera.