IFA National Sheep Chairman Sean Dennehy said farmers whose livestock are under threat from dog attacks have no choice but to refuse walkers with dogs access to their lands.
As part of the IFA nationwide campaign, farmers will be putting up posters ‘No Dogs Allowed’ on farm gates across the country.
“There has been a significant increase in attacks in recent months. The message simply isn’t getting through. We also have reports of farmers encountering verbal abuse and intimidation when they remind dog owners of their responsibilities and the dangers of letting their pets off the leash,” he said.
Sean Dennehy said the authorities’ failure to put appropriate sanctions in place to punish the irresponsible and reckless behaviour of some dog owners means the only way to protect ewes that will be lambing in the coming weeks is to stop the threat at source.
“Rather than risk the devastating consequences, farmers will refuse entry to members of the public with dogs to our lands to protect their animals and their livelihoods. A growing number of reckless dog owners have brought this on everybody else, and the inaction of authorities has forced farmers down this route,” he said.
Despite repeated requests, he said local authorities have failed to put appropriate measures in place, and dog owners refuse to take responsibility for their pets. “Farmers are sick of the casual approach of some dog owners who will not accept the damage their pets can inflict on sheep,” he said.
“While we encourage flock owners to report attacks, the list of recent attacks is certainly bigger than we hear about. The injuries inflicted on sheep by dogs are horrific. Often, those not killed have to be put down due to the extent of their injuries. Farmers may be too upset or traumatised to report to the Gardai what has happened,” he said.
The lack of appropriate sanctions as a deterrent to this behaviour, and the difficulty in bringing those to task, is also contributing to incidents not being reported as farmers have lost confidence in the willingness of the authorities to deal with this issue
Sean Dennehy asked how many more farmers have to encounter their sheep torn apart by dogs or frightened into ditches and drains before those responsible are held accountable.
He reminded dog owners that sheep farmers are entitled under law to defend their livestock, and if their flock is threatened, the law does allow them to shoot the dog.
IFA has repeatedly asked the Government to put serious resources into microchipping and an adequate dog warden service, but it hasn’t happened.
Sean Dennehy said this is an issue that effects all sheep farmers and it’s not confined to people who are out walking dogs. Frequently, these attacks on sheep are as result of dog owners allowing their pets roam free while they are away at work, or at night time. Dog owners are responsible for having their dogs under control and must be accountable for them at all times.
All dogs are legally required to be micro chipped and have a licence. This requirement is not enforced, but as farmers we must register and record every animal on our farms on a national data base.
The latest report on the implementation of the Control of Dogs Act shows only 217,261 dogs are licensed out of an estimated 800,000 dogs in the country. The reality is nobody knows how many dogs there are because of the lack of enforcement.
He said there must be a national ownership database for all dogs that allows those responsible for them be identified. There must also be appropriate sanctions to act as a deterrent for those who allow their animals to cause this devastation on sheep farms and there must be resources put in place to enforce these sanctions.
Sean Dennehy said local authorities must step up to the plate and take their responsibility in this area seriously, by putting in place the structures that will protect our flocks from this ongoing and ever-increasing threat.