Protecting your flock from marauding dogs

Eamon Dempsey

While dog attacks can occur at any time of year, attacks seem to be more prevalent during the lambing season when sheep and young lambs are most vulnerable.

These attacks are dreadful, and very upsetting for sheep farmers. Every farmer in the country know their flock is always at risk of a dog attack, the risk might be low but there are somewhere between 300 - 400 dog attacks each year.

Farmers must be very assertive when it comes to dealing with a dog attack on their farm. While they cannot change the event of a dog attack, they can be aware of what to do during and in the immediate aftermath.

If you are lucky or unlucky enough to witness the attack, the first priority must be to stop the attack immediately, but be careful not to put yourself in harm's way. If you can apprehend the marauding dogs do so to avoid an escalation in the attack.

During or after a dog attack you may be furious but it is important to know and follow the law. The 1984 Control of Dogs Act states it shall be a defence to any action for damages against a person for the shooting of a dog, or to any charge arising out of the shooting of a dog, if the defendant proves that the dog was shot when it was worrying, or about to worry livestock and there were no other reasonable means of ending or preventing the worrying.

There are a number of other sections and provisions to the 1984 Control of Dogs Act that farmers should familiarise themselves with.

In keeping with the law, if a dog is shot for killing or worrying your flock, the person who shot the dog must notify the Gardai to the place where the dog was shot within 48 hours. The owner of the sheep should report the incident in full, make an official complaint and request that a full investigation is undertaken and a report filed.

A site visit from the Gardai should also be requested.

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While this situation is difficult it is important to remain assertive. A number of other people will also need to be contacted including the Dog Warden who should also visit the site and complete a detailed report.

In assessing the welfare of the flock in the aftermath of a dog attack, a vet should be contacted and asked to visit the site and inspect the flock. The farmer should ask the VET to write a brief report recording important statistics such as the numbers dead, severely injured and treated. This report along with pictures taken of dead sheep, injured sheep, dead dogs etc will prove to be vital evidence in building a case.

It is also important to contact the IFA in the event of a dog attack and inform your Insurance company.

As it is your flock attacked today by marauding dogs, it could be your neighbours tomorrow so it is very important that other sheep farmers in the local area are notified, particularly if the dogs which carried out the attack on your farm escaped. Notification can be done through Community Alert Area texts.

Dog owners have an obligation to have their dogs under control at all times. All dogs are required to have a licence and wear a collar that bears the name and address of the owner. There is also a legal requirement on all dog owners to both microchip and register their dogs under the Animal Health and Welfare Act.

While this is not a nice topic to be writing about or reading, it is important to know how to deal with difficult situations such as dog attacks, and if you are a dog owner to know the damage your dog can cause to sheep or other farm animals if not controlled in accordance with the law.


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