Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue and Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys have launched an awareness campaign around livestock worrying by dogs and the responsibilities of dog owners.

The campaign is being launched to coincide with the start of lambing season.

The purpose of the campaign is to remind dog owners of their responsibilities and the vulnerability of sheep to dog attacks, as lambing season approaches.

The two ministers said the issue is one of “grave concern” to the farming community and that attacks on sheep are happening “far too often” in the rural countryside.

The latest figures compiled by local authorities show that there were 240 incidences of ‘livestock worrying’ in 2020 – with a similar number expected when the 2021 returns are completed.

Dog attacks cause serious injury or death to sheep and can cause serious distress and financial loss for farm families.

Ministers Humphreys and McConalogue announced the start of the awareness campaign today (Thursday, January 27) at the farm of Donie Anderson in West Dublin. Minister of State with responsibility for new market development, farm safety and research and development Martin Heydon was also in attendance.

The campaign will run over the whole of lambing season.

Speaking at the launch, Minister McConalogue said: “Sheep worrying causes immense and unnecessary stress for farmers, and serious animal welfare issues for sheep and new-born lambs.

“Uncontrolled pets can decimate a flock within minutes, with reports suggesting that up to 4,000 sheep are killed or seriously injured in dog attacks every year,” he added.

“Dog owners must take responsibility for their pets, which must be under control at all times. Remember, even the gentlest family pet can kill or maim sheep and lambs. Never let your dog out unsupervised, especially at night.”

Minister McConalogue also stressed that all dogs must be microchipped under the law.

“The possession, movement, sale or supply of an unchipped dog is an offence,” he noted.

“I am committed to working with Minister Humphreys to ensure sheep-worrying by dogs becomes a thing of the past, and our officials are working together to improve enforcement of the laws applicable to dogs,” the minister added.

Minister Humphreys commented: “Attacks on sheep can have a devastating impact on farmers, their business, and their families. I’m a dog owner myself and I know the vast majority of dog owners are extremely responsible. But the latest figures show that in 2020, there were 240 incidents of ‘’livestock worrying’ reported to local authorities.

As the lambing season begins, we are hearing more and more reports of incidents in rural Ireland. Some 2.5 million lambs will be born on farms all over Ireland this springtime. Sheep flocks are very vulnerable to dog attacks at this critical time, and especially during the night.

“Our farmers are the backbone of our community and any incident that puts their livestock at risk can have a detrimental impact on the animals and the farmer in question. So I’m appealing to dog owners today, particularly in rural areas, to please keep your dogs on the leash and be vigilante at all times,” she urged.