Marauding dogs are a nationwide problem for sheep farmers, but flock owners in the Cooley Peninsula have been under siege from dog attacks since the beginning of the year, IFA sheep chair Seán Dennehy has said.

“In this blackspot, over 50 sheep have been killed and many more injured since the beginning of the year.

People who take dogs as pets have to take on the responsibility that goes with that

“In 2018, there were 18 attacks reported to the dog warden service in Co Louth. Thirty-one dogs were seized in the Cooley region alone,” he said.

Statistics gathered by the IFA indicate that nationwide the problem may be in the order of 300 to 400 attacks each year, with 3,000 to 4,000 sheep injured and killed.

An average of 11 sheep are killed or injured per attack.

‘Grossly irresponsible’

Dennehy accused dog owners who allow their pets to roam without restriction of acting in a grossly irresponsible, reckless and selfish manner.

He said the family pet can turn into a marauding killer and cause savagery and mayhem on a defenceless sheep flock.

“People who take dogs as pets have to take on the responsibility that goes with that. If dog owners saw the destruction from an attack, they would have a very different mindset. Unfortunately, there are too many people who casually take on a family pet, particularly for Christmas, but they are not prepared to devote the time to responsible dog ownership,” he said.

Dog owners can be held responsible for any losses from attacks on sheep, with serious financial and legal consequences, Dennehy said.

“Farmers have a right to protect their sheep flock and can shoot a dog worrying, or about to worry, their flock.”

Bring back Bonzo

The IFA sheep chair also called on the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to re-run the TV ad campaign on responsible dog ownership from the 1980s.

He said the TV ad featuring Bonzo the dog was an excellent reminder about the dangers of letting pet dogs out at night and the serious damage they could do to a sheep flock. The key message was: keep your dog under control. Running free, he can be a killer.

He reminded all dog owners, including farmers, that it is a legal requirement that they microchip and register their dogs. He said under the Animal Health and Welfare Act all dogs must be microchipped and registered on an authorised database since 31 March 2016.

The IFA has revised its protocol to help farmers who encounter a dog attack on their sheep flock. The protocol deals with these basic questions and also outlines important aspects of the law and how the dog warden service and gardaí 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.

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