A  Fianna Fáil senator has joined the political calls for action in relation to dog attacks on sheep, saying that “harsher consequences” are needed for the dog owners involved.

Senator Erin McGreehan, a Taoiseach’s nominee in the Seanad, also called on more responsibility on the part of the state in the area of dogs, dog ownership and the control of dogs.

She was speaking after an incident in Carlingford, Co. Louth (her home county) last Friday (February 5), in which a dog attack on a flock of sheep was “barely averted just in time”.

This is a national problem, and it is an animal welfare issue. Sheep are being killed and maimed. I have written to both the Minister of Agriculture [Charlie McConalogue] who has responsibility for animal welfare and also the Minister for Local Government [Darragh O’Brien], who has responsibility for the licensing.

“In my opinion there should be one department with responsibility for dogs, dog ownership and the control of dogs. Dog owners need to be fined or convicted if they willingly, or due to negligence, allow their dogs to kill and maim animals,” she argued.

She acknowledged that the countryside has been a solace to people during the Covid-19 pandemic, but highlighted that some dog owners “blatantly show huge disrespect to the landowners and to the welfare of sheep”.

“This is the start of lambing season. An attack on a pregnant sheep, if it doesn’t kill the poor animal, can lead to miscarriage. This is a farm family’s livelihood,” McGreehan outlined.

I am very worried at this situation; farmers are at their wits end worrying about their stock. If this goes on much longer there will be a scenario where the walks will be taken back, and access will be denied to walkers.

“This is a situation that both farmers and walkers do not wish to happen. However, to protect animals it may end up necessary,” she warned.