The Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD) is considering issuing notices to dog owners whose pets are found to be out of control.

Addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture yesterday (Wednesday, May 25), representatives from the department said that 241 incidences of livestock worrying were reported to local authorities in 2020.

It was noted that many incidents involving dogs and livestock are not reported.

The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys is currently seeking to increase the current fine of €2,500 for livestock worrying, following a recent spate of dog attacks.

The Control of Dogs Act 1986 provides for the licensing and control of dogs and provides for the protection of livestock from worrying by dogs.

The DRCD is currently engaged with the Office of the Attorney General in relation to increasing the penalty.

Committee member Senator Victor Boyhan welcomed that the department was seeking legal advice on the matter.

“Farmers are clearly a big aspect of our work on the committee and they are deeply concerned about it [livestock worrying],” he said.

When asked for a timeframe by the independent senator Bairbre Nic Aongusa, assistant secretary in the department’s community division, replied:

“We would be very hopeful of getting advice which will enable us to make regulations in the short-term.”

Dog control

“Dog ownership brings great benefits, physical and social, but also brings with it a responsibility,” Nic Aongusa noted

“Dogs must be kept under effectual control and in particular around livestock. Dogs should never be left free to roam and pose a threat to the livelihood of our farmers,” she added.

Over 200,000 individual dog licences, which fall under the remit of local authorities, were issued in 2020, the committee heard.

Local authorities also appoint dog wardens, seize dogs, impose on-the-spot fines and take court proceedings against owners, where appropriate.

“Under the Control of Dogs Acts we are considering a new provision to allow for Dog Control Notices, (DCNs) – that is a notice issued to a dog owner whose dog has been found to be out of control,” Nic Aongusa said.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) is responsible for the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, which includes the microchipping of dogs.

Following a public consultation on existing dog control measures, the DRCD said that it intends to “more actively promote a culture of responsible dog ownership in Ireland”.

“This will include supporting information campaigns regarding responsible dog ownership and progressing measures involving primary and secondary legislation,” Nic Aongusa explained.

The department will also run a campaign as part of the upcoming National Outdoor Recreation Strategy.