Tougher penalties for dog owners who fail to control their pets around sheep are needed, according to Sean McNamara, the sheep chairperson of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

Sean said that current penalties do not correlate with the damage done when dogs are free to run loose in rural settings and attack livestock. All of these incidents are preventable, but that message is clearly not getting across and tougher penalties are now more than justified.

He added: “Dog owners are often extremely shocked upon learning that their pet has been involved in a sheep worrying incident. However, the reality is that even pets that are usually docile and well-disciplined can react badly around livestock.

There can be absolutely no place for complacency when it comes to the supervision of dogs in the countryside and that message must be driven home loud and clear.

“Fines of €100 are doing nothing to deter incidents of sheep worrying happening year after year. We [ICSA] learned of one case where a dog owner failed to comply with an order to have a dog put down after attacking a flock of ewes and lambs.

“This individual was merely fined another €100 and sent on their way. Penalties like that are not going to change the habits of irresponsible dog owners.”

Sean, who has endured losses of his own from dog attacks said that it’s unbelievably distressing to walk out and find dead or dying ewes.

He explained “Even if the sheep are not directly attacked and have no visible injuries, they can die from the shock alone. The stress brought on by the attack can also cause some ewes to abort. On top of that, there are also financial losses to deal with.

“Everybody should be able to enjoy the countryside, but they must do so responsibly. All attacks can be prevented if dog owners properly supervise their dogs. Our sheep and lambs are particularly vulnerable at this time of year and it is imperative for all dog owners to be conscious of the devastation their pets can cause when left unsupervised, even for a short time,” Sean concluded.