IFA National Sheep Committee Chairman James Murphy said the move by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to microchip all dogs has an important role to play in terms of responsible dog ownership and will only be effective if it is matched by a comprehensive central database in the Department of Agriculture.
James Murphy said costs must be kept to a minimum and he called on the Minister to ensure that there would be no increase in costs to dog owners. He said it made sense to do away with dog licensing altogether once an effective microchipping database was in place and called on Minister Simon Coveney to commit to dog owners that there would be no duplication of costs.
The IFA Sheep Chairman said microchipping can play a major role in preventing attacks on sheep flocks and the resulting horrific consequences. However, this will only work provided microchipping is matched with a comprehensive central database and effective controls.
Timed to coincide with the main lambing season, James Murphy said, the IFA this week launched a media campaign on responsible dog ownership in order to prevent and reduce dog attacks on sheep flocks. “Farmers are in the middle of the peak lambing season, when sheep flocks are particularly vulnerable to dog attacks, especially during the night.”
In a nationwide radio advertising campaign, sponsored by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and IFA Member Services, there is a very clear and strong message to dog owners about their responsibilities, and how they could be held liable if their dog is involved in an attack on sheep. In the radio ad, James Murphy says there can be no excuses: ‘Your Dog…Your Responsibility’.
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.”
Statistics compiled from calls to the IFA hotline in the last year show that sheep flocks in counties Laois, Roscommon, Meath, Wexford and Donegal have suffered most from dog attacks. (See attached table).
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.
Up to 2.5m lambs will be born on 30,000 sheep farms across the country by the end of the lambing season