Dog owners urged to take care in the countryside

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) are calling on all dog owners to be careful in the countryside.

The call follows a meeting between DAERA and the UFU which highlighted the issue of dogs worrying livestock.

The caution comes amid reports of an increase in such incidents; with farmers now concerned for the welfare of their animals.

A DAERA spokesman said: “We understand the real concerns of farmers in this regard; however, the solution lies with dog owners.

“That is why we are appealing for anyone who owns a dog to take particular care in rural areas.

It might seem like a fairly minor act of negligence to let a dog run free in the countryside; but it can have particularly harmful – and potentially expensive – consequences for farmers.

“As we come into the good weather, and more people are out and about with their dogs, we ask that they be mindful of the environment around them,” the spokesperson said.

‘Prevention is better than cure’

Owners have been cautioned not to let dogs “run out of control” – especially in areas where there may be livestock.

“As owners, or keepers, are responsible for any damage caused – this is one area where prevention is better than cure.

Even the best-trained dog can inadvertently distress farmyard animals. Owners should take steps to avoid any situation where their pet might encounter livestock.

“We will continue to work with the UFU, and other organisations, to monitor and address the issue,” the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, James O’Brien, UFU legislation chairman, said: “With more and more urban dwellers moving to the countryside, this has brought an increased number of dogs to rural areas – resulting in more and more dog owners using the countryside to exercise their pets.

“Indeed with more attacks being carried out by stray dogs, this would also suggest that dogs are escaping from their homes and engaging in livestock worrying,” he said.

The UFU also encourages its members to:
  • Check stock regularly in case of attack;
  • Maintain walls, fences and hedges – with the aim of making it more difficult for dogs to gain access to fields where livestock are grazing;
  • And to help each other as regards alerting one another if loose dogs are sighted near livestock.

Reporting incidents

Farmers are encouraged to report all incidents of livestock worrying to the PSNI, and local dog wardens, as and when they occur.

This is to ensure accurate data is collected to get a better understanding of the scale of the issue and to deploy resources accordingly.