With the country’s 30,000 sheep farmers preparing to lamb down 2.5 million ewes over the coming three months, IFA National Sheep Chairman John Lynskey issued a stark warning to all dog owners that they are fully responsible for ensuring that their pets are under control at all times in order to reduce the number of sheep attacked on Irish farms. He said this is a very busy and anxious time for sheep farmers There is clear evidence that sheep flocks are more vulnerable to dog attacks at this time of year.
"They are liable for any losses as a result of dog attacks, with serious financial and legal consequences," he stated. "Farmers have a right to protect their sheep flock and can shoot a dog worrying, or about to worry their flock," he added.
Statistics collated by the IFA indicate that the problem of dog attacks on sheep may be in the order of 300 to 400 attacks per annum, with 3,000 to 4,000 sheep injured and killed. Data on dog attacks gathered by the IFA shows an average of 11 sheep killed or injured per attack. Just before Christmas, there was a case of an Offaly farmer in the Fivealley area who had witnessed his flock attacked for the 5th time in one year.
John Lynskey said marauding dogs can inflict horrendous damage on a sheep flock. "A number of dog attacks have been highlighted in recent weeks across the country, where major financial losses have been incurred. In the last week there was a very severe case in County Tipperary and a wild dog in County Wexford, which is still on the loose, has inflicted serious damage on a number of sheep flocks."
He continued: "Unfortunately, I am taking calls on a frequent basis from sheep farmers around the country who have suffered attacks. There are far too many dog owners not taking the responsibility that goes with owning a pet. Dog owners have an obligation to have their dog under control at all times."
IFA has a protocol to help farmers who encounter a dog attack on their sheep flock. It is an easy-to-follow, 10-point Plan of Action covering what a farmer should do following a dog attack or sheep kill.
"Based on the feedback IFA gets from farmers who have had to deal with a dog attack on their flock, one of the biggest problems is the lack of information on what they should do, who they should contact and where can they get help."
The protocol can be downloaded or viewed on the IFA website at www.ifa.ie.