The chair of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) says fines of €100 are not enough to change the habits of irresponsible dog owners whose animals attack livestock.
ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara, who himself has suffered losses due to sheep worrying, said: “It is unbelievably distressing to walk out and find dead or dying ewes. Even if the sheep are not directly attacked and have no visible injuries, they can die from the shock alone. The stress brought on by the attack can also cause some ewes to abort. On top of that there are also financial losses to deal with.”
ICSA has learned of one case where a dog owner failed to comply with an order to have a dog put down after attacking a flock of ewes and lambs. “This individual was merely fined another €100 and sent on their way. Penalties like that are not going to change the habits of irresponsible dog owners,” Mr McNamara revealed.
“Current penalties do not correlate with the damage done when dogs are free to run loose in rural settings and attack livestock. All of these incidents are preventable, but that message is clearly not getting across and tougher penalties are now more than justified,” he added.
Mr McNamara said dog owners are often extremely shocked upon learning that their pet has been involved in a sheep worrying incident. However, he warned that even pets which are usually docile and well-disciplined can react badly around livestock.
“There can be absolutely no place for complacency when it comes to the supervision of dogs in the countryside, and that message must be driven home loud and clear,” Mr McNamara concluded.
“Everybody should be able to enjoy the countryside, but they must do so responsibly. All attacks can be prevented if dog owners properly supervise their dogs. Our sheep and lambs are particularly vulnerable at this time of year, and it is imperative for all dog owners to be conscious of the devastation their pets can cause when left unsupervised, even for a short time.”
Meanwhile, a Fianna Fáil senator has also joined calls for action in relation to dog attacks on sheep demanding harsher consequences for dog owners involved.
Senator Erin McGreehan, a Taoiseach’s nominee in the Seanad, revealed their was an incident in Carlingford, Co. Louth last week in which a dog attack on a flock of sheep was “barely averted just in time.” Ms McGreehan highlighted that some dog owners blatantly show huge disrespect to the landowners and to the welfare of sheep.
“Dog owners need to be fined or convicted if they willingly, or due to negligence, allow their dogs to kill and main animals. This is a farm family’s livelihood,” she added.
Following a recent spate of attacks on livestock, a nationwide campaign has been launched by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) – entitled ‘No Dogs Allowed’ – to ban walkers with dogs.
Sean Dennehy from the IFA said farmers whose livestock are under threat from dog attacks have no choice but to refuse walkers with dogs access to their lands. “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 livelihood,” he said.