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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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‘You, as the dog owner, are liable for any damages arising from a sheep kill’

An animal welfare charity and Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, are among those calling on dog owners to be extra vigilant, particularly during lambing season.

Minister Humphreys said dog attacks cause real and serious injury to sheep and can have a negative impact, both financially and emotionally, on the farmers involved and their families.

She stated that while most dog owners act responsibility, the issue of animals being attacked has been raised in many parts of the country. Some 253 incidences of livestock worrying were reported to local authorities in 2019.

2.5 million lambs

Speaking to mark the beginning of lambing season, Minister Humphreys pointed out that under the Control of Dogs Acts, it is the responsibility of dog owners to ensure that they are in control of their dogs at all times.

“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.

“The presence of dogs, even on a lead, can alarm sheep prior to lambing and have a detrimental effect on both the sheep and their lambs.”

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“I know that the vast majority of dog owners behave responsibly. However, this is a matter of considerable concern for farmers, particularly those who live in rural parts of the country.”

“Dog wardens and An Garda Síochána are doing what they can. But they cannot be in every part of the country at all times. The solution rests primarily with dog owners.”

Leitrim Animal Welfare Centre

Meanwhile, Leitrim Animal Welfare Centre has also highlighted the need to keep dogs on leads.

A spokesperson for the centre took to social media earlier this week to shed light on the matter.

“Lambing season is upon us. We are asking all dog owners to be extra vigilant and responsible with their dogs. Any dog, including beloved family pets, can become involved in a sheep kill or chase.”

“There are between 300 and 400 dog attacks on sheep flocks each year, according to the IFA, who further believes that between 3,000 and 4,000 sheep are killed or injured from dog attacks each year in Ireland, with an average 11 sheep killed or injured per attack.”

“You, as the dog owner, are liable for any damages arising from a sheep kill. In certain circumstances, it is legal for farmers to shoot dogs, on sight, if a dog is trespassing or worrying livestock on their land. So please look after your dogs, and know where they are at all times. When out and about, have them on lead.” the spokesperson concluded.

Legalities – Dogs:
  • The Control of Dogs Acts 1986, as amended, set out a range of requirements for all dog owners or any other person in charge of a dog. In particular, section 9 of the 1986 Act outlines specific requirements regarding keeping dogs under effectual control. Section 9 (2) states that the owner or any other person in charge of a dog that worries livestock is guilty of an offence. Section 21 of the 1986 Act provides that the owner of a dog shall be liable in damages for an attack on livestock.
  • Under the Control of DogsActs, it is an offence for a dog owner to not have a dog
  • All dogs must also be microchipped and registered on an approved database in accordance with S.I. No. 63/2015 Microchipping of Dogs Regulations 2015, as introduced by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Devasting impacts of dog attacks on sheep – Read more.

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