Rural affairs minister highlights dog owner responsibilities

The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, has highlighted the responsibilities of dog owners, particularly during lambing season.

The minister underlined the vulnerability of sheep, saying: “Dog attacks cause real and serious injury to sheep and can have a negative impact, both financially and emotionally, on the farmers involved and their families.”

Minister Humphreys noted that, while the majority of dog owners act responsibly, the issue of dog attacks on livestock has come up on several occasions around the country in recent times.

She highlighted that some 253 incidences of livestock worrying were reported in 2019.

“Under the Control of Dogs Acts, it is the responsibility of dog owners to ensure that they are in control of their dogs at all times,” Minister Humphreys commented.

She added: “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.

The presence of dogs, even on a lead, can alarm sheep prior to lambing and have a detrimental effect on both the sheep and their lambs.

“I know that the vast majority of dog owners behave responsibly. However, this is a matter of considerable concern for farmers, particularly those who live in more rural parts of the country,” the minister added.

Minister Humphreys concluded by stressing: “Dog Wardens and An Garda Síochána are doing what they can. But they cannot be in every part of the country at all times. The solution rests primarily with dog owners.”

Law

The Control of Dogs Acts set out a range of requirements for all dog owners or any other person in charge of a dog. In particular, they outline specific requirements regarding keeping dogs under “effectual control”.

They also state that the owner or any other person in charge of a dog that worries livestock is guilty of an offence, and that the owner of a dog shall be liable in damages for an attack on livestock.