The rescue of a dog in Co. Wicklow, which was missing for a fortnight, is “an example of why farmers have banned walkers with dogs from their lands”.
That is the view of IFA national sheep chairman, Sean Dennehy, who believes it is this “type of irresponsible behaviour that has created problems for farmers and put their livestock under threat”.
The story, covered by mainstream media on Monday, February 8th, has caused anger among the farming community.
“The owners let their dogs off the leash and one of them chased a deer. The dog then disappeared for a fortnight and was free to roam across farmland without any control. It was extremely lucky to be rescued.” Dennehy said.
He believes the authorities’ failure to put appropriate sanctions in place to deal with 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 have no option but to 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.
Farmers banning dogs from farmland
As part of the IFA nationwide campaign, farmers will be placing ‘No Dogs Allowed’ signs on farm gates.
“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.”
All dogs are legally required to be micro-chipped and have a licence. This requirement is not enforced, but as farmers, he added, we must register and record every animal on our farms on a national database.
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.
Call for action
Dennehy said there must be a national ownership database for all dogs that allows those responsible for them to 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.
“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.
IFA has repeatedly asked the Government to put serious resources into microchipping and an adequate dog warden service.
Dennehy said this is an issue that impacts all sheep farmers and it’s not confined to people who are out walking dogs.
Frequently, these attacks on sheep are as a 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.