State ‘abdication of responsibilities’ regarding dog control

State authorities and, in particular, county councils are being called upon to deliver on their responsibilities in relation to dog control by the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA).

INHFA president Colm O’Donnell outlined the ongoing devastation dog attacks has inflicted on sheep flocks throughout the country.

“This will only ever change when the laws on dog control are fully enforced.

At national and county level we have seen a complete abdication of responsibilities by the powers that be resulting in no control on dogs and no penalties for their irresponsible owners.

The president said that dog owners are required to be in control of their dogs at all times – which also means knowing where their dogs are at all times.

O’Donnell claimed that this is not the case around the country, noting that at night many dog owners go to bed while allowing their dog to roam free outside.

“Others do control their dog at night but allow their dog to roam free while they are gone to work and of course on the hills we see recreational walkers allowing their dogs to roam free clearly unconcerned of the potential stress and damage dogs can cause for our hill flocks.

The gross margin per ewe in hill flocks is low enough without having flocks attacked in this way.

The president outlined that such situations will continue if action is not taken.

“In the 1970s we had a national awareness campaign with TV ads illustrating what a pack of uncontrolled dogs can do to a sheep flock. We need something similar again.

“A campaign that targets all media outlets could be up and running by early February if the will is there to do it,” he asserted.

O’Donnell said that a media campaign on its own would not be enough, adding that full enforcement of current laws needs to be implemented.

“This will need more resources as the current complement of one dog warden per county is clearly not enough.

These wardens need back-up and it is our belief that a team of part-time wardens assisting what is presently there, operating in the evenings and at weekends, could over the next two years ensure every dog owner is visited and where needs be address any issue that arises.

He concluded by stressing the importance of action by our state bodies adding it is not the farmer’s responsibility to control other people’s dogs.