Stronger action required to prevent ‘vicious dog attacks on defenceless sheep flocks’

Much stronger action is required to address the problem of marauding dog attacks on sheep flocks, according to Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) national sheep chairman John Lynskey.

With the darker evenings and nights this time of year, attacks increase and recent cases have been reported in counties Wexford, Kildare, Offaly, Galway, Dublin and Roscommon, Lynskey said.

“Some of these attacks are vicious, with defenceless sheep flocks savaged by marauding dogs inflicting terrible suffering and pain – and in many cases death – on the sheep,” the chairman said.

Lynskey stressed that dog owners need to take a much more active and responsible approach towards ownership and towards ensuring that their pets are under control at all times. He warned: “Owners can be held responsible for any losses involved in dog attacks, with serious financial and legal consequences.

Farmers have a right to protect their sheep flock and can shoot a dog worrying, or about to worry their flock.

The IFA representative said that, according to the Department of Agriculture, 85% of dogs are now micro-chipped. He added that a single database must be introduced – with controls on change of ownership, so as all owners are held accountable.

Lynskey also encouraged all dog owners, including farmers, to make sure to get their dogs microchipped.

The chairman called on Minister Creed and the Department of Agriculture to launch a major publicity campaign on responsible ownership. He said a major TV, radio and social media campaign is required to get the message across to the 800,000 people with dogs in Ireland.

Statistics collated by IFA indicate that the problem of dog attacks on sheep may be in the order of 300 to 400 attacks per annum, with 3,000 to 4,000 sheep injured and killed. Data on dog attacks gathered by the IFA shows an average of 11 sheep killed or injured per attack.

Lynskey said the IFA has a protocol to help farmers who encounter a dog attack on their sheep flock. The IFA protocol involves what the organisation describes as “an easy-to-follow, 10-point Plan of Action covering what a farmer should do following a dog attack or sheep kill”.