IFA National Sheep Chairman John Lynskey said that the latest series of dog attacks on sheep flocks in counties Laois and Dublin highlight the extent of this problem across the country.

He appealed to dog owners to take control of their pets and reminded them they can be held responsible for the losses and damage incurred through an attack.

He added that farmers have protection under the law when defending their flock if the defendant proves that:

(a) 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; or

(b) (i) the dog was a stray dog which was in the vicinity of a place where livestock had been injured or killed, and (ii) the defendant reasonably believed that the dog had been involved in the injury or killing, and (iii) there were no practicable means of seizing the dog or ascertaining to whom it belonged; and

(c) he was the person in charge of the livestock; and

(d) he notified within forty-eight hours the member in charge at the nearest Garda Station to the place where the dog was shot of the incident.

Over the coming weeks, Ireland’s 30,000 sheep farmers will lamb over 2.5 million ewes across the country.

Lynskey said we are now entering the season where dog attacks become a weekly feature again with the long dark nights. Last year the IFA launched a protocol to help farmers who encounter a dog attack on their sheep flock.

The IFA protocol involves a 10-point Plan of Action covering what a farmer should do following a dog attack or sheep kill.

Referring to the Protocol, Lynsey said "based on the feedback IFA gets from farmers who have had to deal with a dog attack on their flock, one of the biggest problems is the lack of information on what they should do, who they should contact and where can they get help.

"The IFA protocol deals with these basic questions and also outlines important aspects of the law and how the dog warden service and the Garda can help. It also sets out how to keep a full record of the attack, which can be used as evidence at a later stage."