As the busiest month of lambing begins, IFA National Sheep Chairman Sean Dennehy has reminded dog owners of the ban on walking on farmland with their pets.
He said the 2.5m ewes in the country are at their most vulnerable before lambing and the only way to protect them in the coming weeks is to stop the threat at source. “Between now and Easter in mid-April is the peak time on farms. An attack on a flock is an attack on a farmer’s livelihood,” he said.
Mr Dennehy said the authorities’ failure to put appropriate sanctions in place to deal with the irresponsible and reckless behaviour of some dog owners has brought about the ban.
“All dogs are legally required to be micro chipped and have a licence. This requirement is not enforced, but as farmers we must register and record every animal on our farms on a national data base,” he said.
The latest report on the implementation of the Control of Dogs Act shows only 217,261 dogs are licensed out of an estimated 800,000 dogs in the country.
Mr Dennehy said there must be a national ownership database for all dogs that allows those responsible for them be identified. “There must also be appropriate sanctions to act as a deterrent for those who allow their animals to cause this devastation on sheep farms and there must be resources put in place to enforce these sanctions,” he said.
IFA has repeatedly asked the Government to put serious resources into microchipping and an adequate dog warden service, but it hasn’t happened.
As part of the IFA nationwide campaign, farmers have put up signs ‘No Dogs Allowed’ on farm gates.
“There has been a significant increase in attacks in recent months. The message simply isn’t getting through. We also have reports of farmers encountering verbal abuse and intimidation when they remind dog owners of their responsibilities and the dangers of letting their pets off the leash,” he said.
Mr Dennehy said this is an issue that effects all sheep farmers and it’s not confined to people who are out walking dogs. Frequently, attacks on sheep are as result of dog owners allowing pets roam free while they are away at work, or at night time.