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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘I am committed to working to ensure sheep-worrying by dogs becomes a thing of the past’

Attacks on sheep are happening “far too often” in the rural countryside.

That is what Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, stressed when launching a new awareness campaign that will run over lambing season.

Minister Humphreys and McConalogue today (Thursday, January 27th, 2022) visited Donie Anderson’s farm in West Dublin.

They reminded dog owners of their responsibilities and the vulnerability of sheep to dog attacks, as lambing season approaches.

The two ministers said the issue is one of “grave concern” to the farming community.

The latest figures local authorities compiled show that there were 240 incidences of livestock worrying in 2020.

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According to the statement, a “similar” number is expected when the 2021 returns are completed.

Dog attacks cause serious injury or death to sheep and can cause serious distress and financial loss for farm families. 

Attacks on sheep 

Minister McConalogue added that sheep worrying causes “immense and unnecessary” stress for farmers and “serious” animal welfare issues for sheep and newborn lambs.

He said that controlled pets can decimate a flock within minutes. Furthermore, reports suggest dog attacks results in the death of/serious injury of some 4,000 sheep every year.

‘‘Dog owners must take responsibility for their pets, which must be under control at all times. The gentlest family pet can kill or maim sheep and lambs. Never let your dog out unsupervised, especially at night.”

The minister added that responsible pet ownership is a priority for his department and outlined legalities.

“By law, every dog must be microchipped, and the possession, movement, sale or supply of an unchipped dog is an offence.”

“I am committed to working with Minister Humphreys to ensure sheep-worrying by dogs becomes a thing of the past. Our officials are working together to improve enforcement of the laws applicable to dogs.”

McConalogue reminded anyone concerned about incidents of animal neglect or cruelty to contact the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine’s helpline.

Responsible dog ownership

Minister Humphreys highlighted that attacks on sheep can have a “devastating” impact on farmers, their business, and their families.”

She said that some 2.5 million lambs will be born on farms all over Ireland this springtime.

“Sheep flocks are very vulnerable to dog attacks at this critical time, and especially during the night.”

“Our farmers are the backbone of our community. Any incident that puts their livestock at risk can have a detrimental impact on the animals and the farmer in question.”

“I am a dog owner myself, and I know the vast majority of dog owners are extremely responsible.”

“I am appealing to dog owners, particularly in rural areas, to please keep your dogs on the leash and be vigilant at all times,” she concluded.

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