Environment Minister Phil Hogan joined forces with the ISPCA to isssue a warning of the consequences of dogs being allowed to roam the countryside. “Owners of dogs must be vigilant at all times, but especially now as we are in the lambing season,” stated Minister Hogan. "Whether you live in or near the countryside, or visit it for recreational purposes, I ask that you are on guard the whole time," said Minister Hogan adding that even when letting the dog have a run in the evening, vigilance is required. "Even docile dogs can join with other dogs to take part in attacks on sheep flocks," he added, highlighting that under the Control of Dogs Act, they can be held liable for financial damage caused to farmers where costs can run to several thousand euro.

Dog attacks on sheep flocks are, if anything, on the increase in recent years, with small scale attacks unreported as farmers despair of action being taken agianst the dogs responsible or their owners. As reported in these pages in recent weeks, Cavan farmer Johnny Lynch has lost over 50 lambs in the last year, while a group of Wicklow hill farmers have lost 40 sheep since the beginning of the year in repeated dog attacks.

ISPCA CEO, Dr Andrew Kelly said "We do not want to see any lambs or ewes distressed, injured or killed by dogs this spring. Nor do we want to see any dogs destroyed as a result. Losses to sheep farmers can be significant and distressing. We would like to remind all dog owners to keep their dogs under control around sheep and other livestock, particularly at this time of year when lambs are being born and are extremely vulnerable."

Don’t let your pets roam freely in the countryside where they can inflict horrific injuries and suffering on lambs and ewes. Dog owners should ensure that their dogs are secured at night," said Kelly. A dog attack on a flock of sheep, particularly during lambing season, can inflict serious damage in terms of animal welfare, in addition to potential serious financial consequences for the dog's owner.