Farming organisations have stated that tighter controls are needed to clamp down on dog attacks and sheep worrying, with the increased fine announced by Minister for Rural Development Heather Humphreys 'not going far enough'.
Among the changes brought in last week under the Control of Dogs Act is a €300 on-the-spot fine for owners of dogs found to be worrying sheep and increased funding for local authorities’ dog control units.
Both the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) claim that these changes to the regulations must go even further to make a meaningful impact on dog attacks.
The two farming organisations called for the newly announced stakeholder group on dogs to convene immediately and begin progressing proposals for tighter regulations which came from a previous working group on dog control.
The IFA said that the rule changes announced by Minister Humphreys only amount to the first step needed in tackling attacks on sheep.
Calls were made by the IFA to increase the number of dog wardens on patrol and to establish a national dog owner database to better allow for the identification of owners whose dogs are found to be worrying sheep.
“It’s disappointing more of the positive measures put forward by the working group on control of dogs were not implemented. These would provide significant support to farmers in protecting their livestock,” the association's sheep chair Kevin Comiskey said.
Slammed by hill farmers
The INHFA claims that the new changes to dog control rules will do little to improve the situation sheep farmers find themselves in in relation to dog attacks.
Its vice-president John Joe Fitzgerald said that farmer concerns on the issue appear to be going unheard.
“When proposals for an inter-departmental committee to examine the issue of dog control were outlined, we were hopeful that real proposals backed by a substantial budget to ensure enforcement would accompany this,” Fitzgerald commented.
The hill farmers’ group had been “hopeful” that the “real proposals” which emerged from the inter-departmental working group on dog control would be put into action.
“However, what we have got is a token effort, with no recognition of concerns detailed by farmers both on our lowlands and on our hills, where the problem is exacerbated by some hill walkers that defy requests to not bring dogs on to our hills.
“For sheep farmers, the most devastating thing that can happen is to have their flock attacked and mauled by dogs and, unfortunately, this is happening way too often.”
The INHFA vice-president voiced further concern with instances of farmers’ requests for dog walkers to keep off their lands going ignored.
“This abuse is getting to a dangerous level and it is incumbent on the Minister and Government to recognise this and act before it’s too late.”