As the first day of Spring approaches, the IFA and the Department of the Environment have joined forces to raise public awareness about the responsibility of dog owners and the vulnerability of sheep flocks to dog attacks at this time of year. Statistics compiled from calls to an IFA hotline since last year’s lambing season show that sheep flocks in Laois, Donegal, Roscommon and Wexford have suffered most from dog attacks.
IFA Sheep Chairman James Murphy said, “This joint campaign is targeted at dog owners, making it clear they must be in control of their pets at all times. Farmers will hold them responsible for any damage or losses incurred as a result of a dog attack. The frequency of attacks on sheep flocks is very disturbing and illustrates the dreadful consequences of the failure to keep dogs under control.”
The Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said, “We are all aware of the awful dog attacks on sheep over the last few weeks. This situation is just not acceptable. Dog Wardens and Gardaí are doing what they can, but they cannot be in every part of the country at all times. The solution rests fairly and squarely with dog owners.”
The IFA National Sheep Chairman welcomed the support from the Government and the Minister in the defence of sheep flocks against dog attacks. “Up to 2.5m lambs will be born on 30,000 sheep farms across the country over the next 3 months. Sheep flocks are very vulnerable to dog attacks at this critical time, and especially during the night.”
James Murphy said a dog attack on a sheep flock is extremely stressful and can inflict savage injuries, often fatal. He said, “Aside from the economic losses, for which dog owners can be held liable, the welfare implications for the flock can be very severe and long-lasting. Sheep never recover fully from a dog attack and can suffer ongoing difficulties, including reproduction problems and increased nervousness affecting their general health.”
The IFA sheep farmers’ leader said under the Control of Dogs Act, it states very clearly: “If a dog worries livestock, the owner or any other person in charge of the dog shall be guilty of an offence unless it is established that at the material time the dog worried the livestock for the purpose of removing trespassing livestock and that having regard to all the circumstances the action was reasonable and necessary.” James Murphy also pointed out that under the law farmers are entitled to take whatever steps are necessary to protect their sheep flocks against marauding dogs on their lands.