Dog attack numbers on sheep goes grossly under reported, due to the lack of action from authorities when sheep kills and sheep worrying are reported by farmers, IFA sheep chair Sean Dennehy has said.

Therefore, sheep flocks are left extremely vulnerable to dog attacks, he said, in response to the recent sheep kills reported throughout the country over the Christmas period.

“It’s not acceptable to farmers, who provide full traceability for seven million cattle and three million breeding sheep, where every animal is individually tagged and traceable to the person responsible for them, that a similar system is not in place for dog owners,” he said.

Dennehy said that there’s an estimated 800,000 dogs in the country, with only 207,866 licences issued in 2020.

This leaves almost 600,000 without identification, or association to a responsible keeper.

"The IFA has met with Ministers Charlie McConalogue and Malcolm Noonan on the issue over the past year to have meaningful measures put in place to protect sheep farmers from the irresponsible behaviour of some dog owners.

"IFA launched a ‘No Dogs Allowed’ campaign in early 2021. This campaign will continue until action is taken by Government to address this persistent problem," he said.

There are very few sheep farmers in the country who have not had the horrendous experience of finding their flock savaged by dogs

Dennehy said that there are very few sheep farmers in the country who have not had the horrendous experience of finding their flock savaged by dogs, yet the official figures recorded only 241 such incidents in 2020.

Control of dogs

Local authorities are responsible for the control of dogs under the Control of Dogs Act 1986.

Based on the latest published figures of implementation of the law by local authorities, it is clear even the existing obligations of dog owners are not being enforced, with only 82 prosecutions initiated in 2020 and only 198 dogs seized, he said.

  • Dog owners are required to have a dog licence and to have the dog microchipped.
  • Dogs must be under the control of a responsible person, if it is outside a home or premises, or the home or premises of the person in charge of it.
  • Owners are liable for injury or damage caused by their dog to people or livestock.
  • Dennehy argued that the need to strengthen the legislation, include appropriate sanctions and develop a single national database identifying dogs and their owners, similar to that in other jurisdictions is urgent.

    He has outlined key areas that should be addressed:

    1. A single national database for all dogs in the country that identifies the person responsible for the dog.

    2. More appropriate sanctions for those found in non-compliance of the microchipping obligations of dog owners.

    3. More appropriate sanctions for those who fail to have their dog under their control at all times and for those whose dogs are identified worrying/attacking livestock.

    4. Additional resources to enforce and ensure compliance with the obligations of dog owners.