What can farmers do if their sheep are attacked by dogs?

Over the past number of weeks, there have been a spate of dog attacks on sheep across the country – especially around the midlands.

For some reason or another, attacks on sheep are more regular this time of the year. Furthermore, the stress farmers have to deal with this time of the year – during lambing time – is not helped by attacks on their sheep by dogs.

Also Read: Dog attack: ‘Unbelievably distressing to find dead or dying ewes’

It may be a case that some farmers are unsure and confused about what to do when it comes to an attack on their flock and what is the best course of action to take when it occurs.

Therefore, listed below is some information that might help farmers who have seen a dog attack their sheep and are wondering what they can do about it.

Under the 1984 Control of Dogs Act, it states under the section: Defence in action for damages for shooting a dog.

It shall be the defence to any action for damages against a person for the shooting of a dog, or to any charge arising out of the shooting of a dog, if the defendant proves that:

  • The dog was shot when it was worrying, or was about to worry, livestock and that there were no other reasonable means of ending or preventing the worrying;
  • The dog was a stray dog which was in the vicinity of a place where livestock had been injured or killed;
  • The defendant reasonably believed that the dog had been involved in the injury or killing;
  • There was no practicable means of seizing the dog or ascertaining to whom it belonged, and he was the person in charge of the livestock, and he notified within 48 hours the member in charge at the nearest Garda Station to the place where the dog was shot of the incident.

Source: Irish Statute Book, Controls of Dog Act 1986, Section 23.


In response to the recent dog attacks that have occurred recently, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) have developed a protocol that farmers should follow if they encounter a dog attack on their flock.

It is a difficult time for farmers when they lose sheep to a dog attack. However, it is important that they contact the relevant authorities if they are to have any hope of getting justice for their loss of livestock.

Listed below is a protocol drawn up by the IFA that farmers should follow when they encounter a dog attack on their sheep.

Stop the dogs

On encountering a dog attack on a flock of sheep, the first priority must be to stop it immediately. If it is possible, farmers should try to apprehend the marauding dog or dogs and look after the welfare of the sheep.

Follow the law

It is very important that sheep farmers are aware of and follow the law, in the context of protecting their flock against marauding dogs.

Inform the Gardaí

It is very important that sheep farmers would notify the Gardaí of any dog attack on their sheep. If a dog is shot following or threatening a sheep flock, the person who shot the dog must notify the member in charge at the nearest Garda Station to the place where the dog was shot – within 48 hours.

Furthermore, it is important that the owner of the sheep would report the incident in full, make an official complaint and request that a full investigation is undertaken and report filed. In addition, the farmer should request a site visit from the Gardaí.

Ring the local dog warden

If a dog has attacked a flock of sheep, immediate contact should be made with the local dog warden of any sheep attack and the full details reported with a request for a site visit and full report to be filed.

Ring the vet

Furthermore, to look after any injured sheep and protect the welfare of the flock, a vet should be contacted and asked to visit and inspect the flock.

The farmer should ask the vet to write a brief report recording the important statistics such as the number of: dead; severely injured; and treated sheep. This report is vital evidence on the case.

Take a picture

It is important to take pictures of any dead or injured animals, as this can prove to be vitally important in terms of evidence.

Moreover, all dead sheep must be disposed of and recorded into the knackery.

Get a valuation of losses

In the aftermath of a dog attack, the farmer should contact a local auctioneer or valuer and have any dead sheep valued on the spot and any other losses documented.

Inform your insurance company

It is vital to inform your insurance company of any dog attack as soon as possible after the incident occurs. Likewise, it is very important to establish the insurance company of the dog owner (home and/or farm insurance).

Tell your neighbouring sheep farmers

It is crucial that other sheep farmers in the local area are aware of any dog attack in their vicinity, particularly if the dogs have not been apprehended.