A delegation from the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has met with Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys to call for tougher sanctions to curb dog attacks on livestock.

The IFA team, which met with the minister yesterday evening (Wednesday, May 18), was led by its national sheep chairperson Kevin Comiskey.

At the meeting, Comiskey argued that “the persistent failure” of the authorities has frustrated farmers who have suffered significant losses as a result of dog attacks.

Afterwards, the sheep chairperson said there had been “constructive discussion” with Minister Humphreys, who, he said, “understands the issues and is committed to addressing farmer concerns”.

“This is a critical issue on sheep farms. Dog attacks cause unimaginable suffering for sheep and lambs, and huge economic losses for farmers,” Comiskey stressed.

He outlined for the minister that the IFA has three “priority actions” aimed at tackling the issue. They are:

  • A single national database for all dogs in the country that identifies the person responsible for the dog;
  • Tougher sanctions for those who fail to have their dog under control at all times, and for those dogs that are identified worrying or attacking livestock;
  • Additional resources to ensure compliance with the obligations of dog owners.

“The level of sanctions [at present] doesn’t reflect the savagery and trauma these uncontrolled dogs are causing,” Comiskey argued.

“The absence of a centralised database to identify ownership and those responsible for the dogs, and the lack of enforcement of microchipping, are all contributing to this ongoing and escalating problem,” he added.

Comiskey argued that dogs “should not be allowed in or near farmland”. He called on all dog owners to behave in a responsible way.

Farmer survey on dog attacks

The comments from the IFA’s sheep chairperson echo comments from another farm organisation, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA).

The INHFA has recently conducted a survey of its members, finding that dog control was identified as a major issue for them.

83% of the respondents indicated that walkers on their lands have brought dogs with them, with 64% of respondents saying that the had asked walkers to not do so.

However, 61% of those farmers said that walkers had not complied with this request.

INHFA vice-president Pheilim Molloy noted that dog control is a “key issue that must now be addressed”.

He also said that the association was working on a policy paper – to be issued in the near future – that is going to call for legislation to ban non-working dogs from upland spaces.