The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) has branded government proposals on dog attacks as “tokenism”.

Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, recently announced a suite of new measures designed to enhance dog control.

The measures will see on-the-spot fines for more serious offences under the Control of Dogs Act increase from €100 to €300 from December 1.

A €2 million fund will be established to upgrade local authority shelter facilities and vehicles nationwide.

The minister will also ask a high-level stakeholder group to examine wider issues, such as expanding the “restricted breeds” list.

Dog attacks

INHFA vice-president John Joe Fitzgerald said that Minister Humphreys has not listened to the concerns of farmers around dog attacks.

“For sheep farmers the most devastating thing that can happen is to have their flock attacked and mauled by dogs and unfortunately this is happening way to often.

“When proposals for an inter-departmental committee to examine the issue of dog control were outlined, we were hopeful that real proposals backed by a substantial budget to ensure enforcement would accompany this.

“However, what we have got is a token effort with no recognition of concerns detailed by farmers both on our lowlands and on our hills, where the problem is exacerbated by some hill walkers that defy requests to not bring dogs onto our hills,” he said.

Fitzgerald, a sheep farmer from west Kerry, said that farmers are being abused when they try to prevent people bringing dogs onto their lands.

“This abuse is getting to a dangerous level and it is incumbent on the minister and government to recognise this and act before it’s too late,” he said.

No Dogs Allowed sheep IFA dog attacks fines

Meanwhile, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has said that the new dog control regulations are “a first step” but added that more is needed to protect livestock from dog attacks.

IFA is seeking a single national database for all dogs to correlate licensing and microchipping, identifying the person responsible for the dog, along with increasing the number of dog wardens on the ground.

Kevin Comiskey, IFA Sheep Committee chair, said that an essential aspect of enhanced legislation will be enforcement.

“It’s disappointing more of the positive measures put forward by the working group on control of dogs were not implemented.

“These would provide significant support to farmers in protecting their livestock,” he said.

Comiskey said the new stakeholder group must convene immediately and commence work on bringing forward the proposals of the working group.

He said that the irresponsible behaviour of dog owners continues to lead to devastating consequences across the country.

The IFA Sheep chair said that dogs should not be allowed near farmland and urged all dog owners to behave in a responsible way and adhere to this.