Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 23 October 2017

'These attacks could escalate': Dogs kill 66 sheep in Louth alone since February

A walker was also attacked in north Co. Louth this year, says an ifa report

Henry McElroy
Henry McElroy

Anne Campbell

The problem of out of control dogs attacking sheep and lambs in the north Louth has escalated since the start of the year, with the IFA in Louth reporting that 66 sheep and a calf have been killed by dogs since February.

And the Argus has been told about an incident at Ravensdale Forest recently where a walker in his seventies was attacked by a dog, while its owner, it is believed, sat in a car.

It also reports on that there was a further incident near Carlingford earlier this month where a farmer, whose sheep were under attack, shot two dogs dead on his land.

The pain of the situation for farmers in North Louth was highlighted earlier this year by the Argus who featured Hackballscross farmer Henry McElroy, who lost more than 20 sheep and lambs in a savage attack in his fields.

Mr McElroy spoke of not only the financial cost of the attack, but also the huge frustration felt by him and many other farmers that 'no one seems to be taking responsibility' for stopping these attacks.

He said last week that the death of a woman in Galway, who was attacked and killed by dogs at a private property, 'brought home the terrible reality' of what can happen when dogs attack. He criticised Gardai, the Department of Agriculture and Louth County Council for, he claimed, failing to take the matter seriously enough.

The latest attack came on June 8 at Rooskey, Carlingford. It is understood that a neighbour of the farmer saw two dogs on the land and contacted the land owner between 8pm and 9pm.

The land owner shot the two dogs and contacted dog warden at Louth County Council. It is understood the dogs' owner had been out looking for them and has since been in touch with the farmer.

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The attack at the road into Ravensdale Forest, known as the Edentubber Road, happened at around lunchtime on Sunday June 18 when the man, who often leads walking tours of the Tain Trail, was on his own carrying out a recce of the trail ahead of a planned walk.

He said: 'I had seen a fox on the trail a moment before a boxer-type dog came charging out of the wooded area towards me. There was another dog with the boxer, and luckily I had walking poles with me so I was able to keep it back with them'.

The man described how the dog attempted a number of times to attack him before he was able to lift the fallen branch of a tree and hit the animal on the jaw.

He said: 'The dogs ran off after that. There was a car at the bottom of the road with the doors open and I think the driver had let the dogs out. I have no doubt that the dog would have attacked me and I am concerned about this incident because there could easily have been children and older people around'.

The matter has been reported to Gardai in Dundalk and the owners of the forest, Coillte.

IFA Louth chairman, Gerry Melia, said farmers are frustrated that their concerns about this issue 'are not being listened to and they are not being helped'.

He said when attacks are reported to Gardai, officers contact Louth County Council's dog warden who often have too little evidence for a prosecution.

Mr Melia said: 'I'm urging people, before things get worse, to report any incident at all in as much detail as possible. Once a dog draws blood, it will come back and it will bring other dogs with it.

'I fear these attacks could escalate and when they do, when a person is badly injured or even worse, everyone will be up in arms and everyone will be asking why nothing was done.

'We have been calling for a long time for all dogs to be properly licensed and micro-chipped, and it's important that's done on a cross border basis by a single authority who carries responsibility for it.

'At the moment, it's half there, half not and this is simply not good enough. And we need dog owners to be more responsible. People are not taking care of their so-called pets.

'In addition, the legislation is currently not strong enough and this really needs to be looked at to tackle the problem in the long term'.

Mr Melia revealed that 66 sheep and a calf have been killed by marauding dogs in the last four months in the Cooley, Ravensdale and Hackballscross areas of North Louth.

In addition to the loss of the sheep and lambs, farmers also have to fork out for veterinary bills and the cost of getting the animals properly disposed of.

Mr Melia said: 'The Louth IFA plans to hold a meeting with sheep farmers in the Cooley area in July to again discuss this issue'.

Louth County Council responded to a request for a statement about the matter from the Argus: 'The council met with the local farmers and the IFA in relation to the issue and the dog wardens continue to patrol the area.

'The council will use all powers available to it to address the problem, subject to the necessary evidence being gathered'.

The Argus