Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 March 2018

Simple steps to ensure your dog does not attack sheep

Jason Byrne, Head of Agri-Business, Zurich Insurance

Each year dozens of sheep attacks and incidents of worrying (attack, kill or to chase livestock) occur throughout Ireland and the damage to a farmers flock can be catastrophic as well as the associated financial impact and emotional distress.

At this time of year ewes and lambs are particularly vulnerable so what can dog owners do to work together to avoid this unnecessary and distressing situation from arising in the first place?

Dog Owners' Responsibilities

Dog owners' have a legal responsibility to prevent their dogs from worrying livestock. Section 9(s) of the Control of Dogs Act* provides that the owner or any other person in charge of the dog shall be guilty of an offence and can be held liable for physical and economic loss.


  • Licence - it is an offence to keep a dog unless you have a licence. All dogs over four months of age must have a licence.
  • Microchip – to enhance dog identification and ownership, a new system of compulsory microchipping was introduced in 2015 and since 31 March 2016, the regulations now apply to all dogs.
  • Collar - dogs must at all times wear a collar that bears the name and the address of the owner inscribed on it or on a plate, badge or disc.  Consider using your EIRCODE as the address identification.
  • Breed - additional rules and restrictions apply in respect of certain breeds of dog, for example, Staffordshire bull terrier or German shepherd (Alsatian) that they must be muzzled whenever they are in a public place and kept on a short lead controlled by a capable person over the age of 16.

Failure to adhere to the above can result in a penalty, fine or prosecution imposed by the local authority.

Tips to ensure safety of the flock

  • Keep dogs on a lead - enjoy recreational activities but avoid rambling in fields or lands where sheep are.  The presence of dogs, even on a lead, can alarm sheep prior to lambing and can have a detrimental effect on them as well as their lambs and may cause abortions such as in Twin Lamb Disease, if sheep become stressed.
  • Secure dogs at night - sheep flocks with pregnant ewes are particularly vulnerable to dog attacks at this critical time, and especially during the night. Some sheep never recover fully from a dog attack and can suffer ongoing health problems, including reproduction problems and nervousness.
  • Awareness – raise the alert of any unaccompanied dogs and contact local landowners.

As a dog owner by simply following the S.H.E.E.P. points below you can play a part and help protect against unnecessary sheep attacks.

Also Read

Secure your dogs at night or on a lead while walking.

Have awareness of neighbouring sheep on farmers’ lands.

Enjoy recreational activities but be mindful of lambing season.

Ensure you are a responsible dog owner and encourage others to abide by the rules.

Pet dogs can attack and kill sheep – remember this includes your own pet dog no matter how docile!

Protecting farmers

At Zurich, we understand that sheep worrying and livestock loss can cause significant distress and financial loss to farmers. As part of our Farm Insurance package we provide sheep worrying protection against loss of sheep owned, which are fatally injured (or necessary slaughter by veterinary surgeon following an attack or worrying) resulting directly from any dog attack or worrying by dogs.

We understand that the full extent of the related loss of affected sheep can take time to determine. Therefore, provided such fatality occurs within 28 days of the attack or worrying, we will treat and cover it as part of the same worrying incident. 

Zurich will help you get your business back on track after such a devastating attack. Call our Farm Insurance experts on 053 915 76 77 or 1890 800 171.

Zurich Insurance plc is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.
*The Control of Dogs Act 1986, as amended by the Control of Dogs (Amendment) Act 1992, sets out the principal rules in respect of liability for damage caused by dogs.
Normal acceptance, terms conditions of the policy and cover apply.

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