Farmers 'under siege' from dog attacks as 42 sheep killed in one county in two months

Louth IFA rural development chairman Matthew McGreehan. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson
Louth IFA rural development chairman Matthew McGreehan. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

Elaine Keogh

Sheep farmers are "under siege" from dogs who are attacking their flocks, it has been claimed.

Some 42 sheep have been killed in the past two months in Co Louth alone, and half of them died in just the past week, according to Louth IFA rural development chairman Matthew McGreehan.

Nationally, he said there were dog attacks on a daily basis, and in the north Louth area "we have had up to nine dog attacks in last two months, and I would not have heard about them all".

He said two attacks in the past week had claimed the lives of 21 sheep.

In one incident, 19 sheep were killed and many more were injured.

In the second attack, two were killed and another 12 injured.

The injured sheep were often bitten under their neck, which was "very serious", he said.

Mr McGreehan said that in one case, there were a total of 70 sheep in the field and the balance of the flock "were heavy in lamb and were very traumatised" following the attack. The stress of an attack can lead to the sheep aborting or the lambs being stillborn, he said.

Mr McGreehan, who is also chairman of the Cooley branch of the IFA in north Louth, claimed farmers were "under siege" as a result of the attacks.

He said the well-known advert from the 1980s, which warned dog owners about the dangers of letting their pet out at night, could be re-run to raise awareness of the problem.

In the advert, the family pet dog is let out at night and runs off and attacks sheep, before returning to the family home covered in blood.

Mr McGreehan said: "Dog owners should understand that, running free, their dog can be a killer."

He said that if the problem continued, dog wardens could be asked to take any stray dog off the streets, because "if not under effective control, the dog warden can take action, to prevent attacks [on sheep]".

Sinn Féin Louth county councillor Antóin Watters backed the need to raise awareness among dog owners.

"The sheep are heavy in lamb now at the minute, and any of these things at all are detrimental to a flock," he said.

"In farming livelihoods, the margins are thinning up and if you are losing lambs, it takes a lot of money to make it up and this has a big effect on them."

He said Louth County Council had issued fixed penalty notices to owners under the Control of Dogs Act and had euthanised a number of dogs that were caught.

"I want to raise awareness about it, because people do not realise the damage a dog can do," he added.

"It is a family pet, but whenever it gets out and into a flock of sheep, it turns into a different animal altogether."

Dog owners are liable to compensate farmers if their dog injures or kills a sheep.

In the case where there is an attack on a flock and multiple kills, the cost of compensation could be "substantial", said Mr McGreehan.

The IFA estimates there are between 300 and 400 dog attacks on sheep each year, with between 3,000 and 4,000 sheep killed or injured.

Irish Independent