Vast swathes of countryside are at risk of being made off-limits to walkers with dogs, as farmers have issued information about a spate of attacks on livestock.
A nationwide Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) campaign – entitled ‘No Dogs Allowed’ – has been launched and posters will be placed on farm gates across the country to ban walkers with dogs.
The IFA is spearheading the initiative following a number of reports of farmers finding their sheep “torn apart by dogs or frightened into ditches and drains”.
The IFA’s Sean Dennehy said farmers whose livestock are under threat from dog attacks have no choice but to refuse walkers with dogs access to their lands.
“There has been a significant increase in attacks in recent months. The message simply isn’t getting through,” Mr Dennehy said.
“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.
“Rather than risk the devastating consequences, farmers will refuse entry to members of the public with dogs to our lands to protect their animals and their livelihoods.
“A growing number of reckless dog owners have brought this on everybody else, and the inaction of authorities has forced farmers down this route.”
The IFA said it had repeatedly asked the Government to introduce resources to microchipping, and an adequate dog warden service.
However, neither have been acted upon yet.
“Farmers are sick of the casual approach of some dog owners who will not accept the damage their pets can inflict on sheep,” said Mr Dennehy.
“While we encourage flock owners to report attacks, the list of recent attacks is certainly bigger than we hear about.
“The injuries inflicted on sheep by dogs are horrific. Often, those not killed have to be put down due to the extent of their injuries.
“Farmers may be too upset or traumatised to report to
the gardaí what has happened.”
Mr Dennehy said dog owners needed to be reminded that sheep farmers are entitled, under law, to defend their livestock.
He said if a farmer’s flock is threatened, the law allows for the shooting of the dog causing the trouble.
Mr Dennehy said the hugely concerning issue affects all sheep farmers across the country.
The problem, he added, was not just down to people who were walking dogs.
Attacks on sheep had frequently taken place as a result of dogs roaming free, he added.
He said dogs are legally required to be microchipped, while owners should also have a licence for their dog.
Farmers would now register and record every animal on farms on a national database, he added.