The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has called on Oireachtas members to legislate and ensure that all non-working dogs are banned from Irish hills and farmlands.

This comes following the alleged attack on farmer Pat Dunne by a dog-walker hiking on the well-known ZigZag walking trail in the Wicklow Mountains on Sunday 19 March.

Speaking on this, INHFA vice-president Pheilim Molloy outlined how the association had previously compiled a policy paper that calls for new legislation around dog control and public indemnity, along with a public education programme to be established.

The paper, he said, was based on a survey conducted with the INHFA's membership, and the responses showed a real concern relating to the threat posed to farmers and their livestock from walkers bringing dogs on to hills and farmlands.

"Legislation in this area needs to involve considerable fines for those caught with non-working dogs on farmland and this should also be considered as a criminal offence.

"While this may seem drastic to some, it will remove any ambiguity about access with dogs and challenge the minority who either do not understand or are unwilling to respect the landowners’ property and livelihood rights," he said.


In addition to dog control legislation, the INHFA is also calling for legislation that would require anyone involved in accessing property for recreational purposes to have private and public liability insurance.

This, Molloy believes, would help reduce farmer’s exposure to potential claims.

"Alternatively, the Oireachtas could enact legislation to ensure that anyone accessing farmland does so at their own risk and automatically waives the right to claim against the property owner," he said.

We are seeing regular reports of damage being done by recreational users

The unregulated encouragement of public access is adding to the risk of farms as workplaces in a manner that would not be tolerated under health and safety requirements in other industries, Molloy argued.

"We are seeing regular reports of damage being done by recreational users, such as fences being broken and stock being injured, and, in some cases, wildfires caused by recreational users wild camping that has undermined CAP payments to farmers.”

Owned land

Molloy stressed the need for recreational users to understand “that when they walk on farmland, they are entering owned land and entering a farmer’s place of work and livelihood”.

"Access to our hills should not be seen as a public right and where farmers are willing to facilitate access, due respect, including the absence of dogs, is vital.

"We must also recognise that there are landowners that don’t want people on their property and this right must also be respected," he said.

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