There is an “alarming level of inaction” when it comes to the control of dogs in Ireland, according to the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA).
The farm organisation said the fact that three Government departments have responsibility over dogs is contributing to a “very scattered approach”.
The INHFA joined several other farm organisations and stakeholders in making submissions to the Department of Rural and Community Development as part of its review of measures relating to the control of dogs in Ireland. Some 74 submissions were published by the Department last week.
A theme running throughout the submissions to Minister Humphrey’s department was a call from several farm organisations for additional dog wardens and enforcement officers across the country.
“It is apparent that there are huge deficiencies in some areas where [dog warden] resources are almost non-existent,” said Macra na Feirme.
The IFA called for dog wardens to be “granted more powers” including the power to issue dog control notices and put down a dog in cases where it has seriously harmed people or livestock.
The association called for an “increased level” of licensing and microchipping of sogs. It said this enhanced service “should be financed from central Government.”
The IFA maintained that there was a need for dog wardens to be available out of hours, as many dog attacks on sheep occur late at night or early in the morning.
‘Drones to scan hills’
In its submission, the Wicklow Cheviot Sheep Breeders Association highlighted the need for dog wardens to be given access to drones to scan the hills for marauding dogs.
Veterinary Ireland (VI) called for dog wardens and gardaí to be given greater powers to deal with problem dogs and problem dog owners.
The veterinary body said issuing notices to dog owners under the Animal Welfare Act 2013 would be a “simple mechanism to increase enforcement” which would “not block court time” but instead reduce garda “reluctance” to pursue “misdemeanour type offences through the courts.”
VI said the introduction of dog control orders “for named individuals, as has been done in Scotland, would be a very positive development here in Ireland.”
’One state agency’
A number of submissions criticised the “very scattered approach” to dog control, where three Government departments are involved.
Currently, dog licensing is controlled by the Department of Rural and Community Development, microchipping is the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture and local authorities who employ dog wardens are under control of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
“One State agency should have responsibility over dog ownership, licensing and microchipping, with a complete database of dogs and their owners,” according to the Wicklow Cheviot Sheep Owners Association.
Ultimately, many of the submissions made to the Department of Rural and Community Development called for greater awareness of what responsible dog ownership entails.
Farm organisations and stakeholders called for a concerted national effort in January each year, ahead of the busiest lambing period, with TV, radio and print campaigns to remind dog owners of the law and demonstrate the impact dog attacks can have on livestock.
They said this should either be funded centrally by the Government or from the proceedings of increased dog licensing.
The Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys told the Irish Farmers Journal earlier this month that she is considering doubling the current fine of €2,500 for owners of dogs which attack livestock to €5,000.
However, farm organisations say doubling the fine will be no use unless there is greater enforcement.