While thankfully there was a happy ending to the tale of the dog that got lost in the Cooley mountains last week, with Sophie being found in Omeath on Sunday, hill walkers are being reminded that dogs should not be on the mountains.
The Springer Spaniel had gone missing on the Tain Way after David Keane from Swords had taken her out on a hike the previous weekend.
David had launched an appeal on social media calling for information about Sophie, who belonged to a woman he got to know while delivering parcels.
Sheep farmer and IFA Rural Development representative Matthew McGreehan stressed that dogs are not permitted on the mountains, either on or off the lead.
“The land on the mountain belongs to the farmers, either in commonage or in small holdings. In co-operation with the local authority we grant permission for people to walk on the mountains but dogs aren’t allowed.”
There have been numerous incidences of dogs running off, chasing and attacking sheep he says.
“Farmers are very nervous and are on tender hooks at times like Bank Holiday weekends when there a a lot of people walking on the mountain in case they bring dogs.”
“There has got to be respect on both sides. People don’t mind the walkers but they definitely don’t want dogs, whether it’s on the lead or not.”
The issue of dogs chasing sheep isn’t just a danger during the lambing season but all year round.
He explains that sheep can be scared and run for miles if they encounter a dog, even if it’s on a lead.
“The problem is even if someone gets out of a car and starts up the mountain on a lead, they can then let it off .”
Dog owners could find themselves facing legal proceedings and bills if their dog causes injuries to sheep.
While most dog owners are responsible, he says others can be very aggressive when told that their pets shouldn’t be on the mountain.
“We live in a lovely place which is why so many people are going out walking but they have to show a bit of respect to the farmers and people who live here.”