The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has said that there are a number of key messages from the recent case at Gort District Court taken by a farmer after a dog attack on his sheep.

IFA National Sheep chair, Kevin Comiskey said the substantive message is the deficiency in the current system for the enforcement of responsible dog ownership and dog control.

This week marks the first anniversary of the IFA ‘No Dogs Allowed’ campaign, which the association said will continue until it sees meaningful action from Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue and Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys in this area.

“The level of sanctions that can be applied do not reflect the savagery and trauma these uncontrolled dogs are causing,” Comiskey said.

“The absence of a centralized database to identify ownership and those responsible for the dogs, and the lack of enforcement of microchipping, are all contributing to this persistent and escalating problem.

The committee chair said that a farmer who has had his flock “savaged and his income decimated” should not have to resort to the court system and risk the associated costs, because of what he described as the failure of the authorities to have appropriate enforcement and sanctions in place for dog owners.

Comiskey said Minister McConalogue gave a commitment at the recent IFA AGM to put in place better legislation and the IFA wants this to happen as a matter of urgency.

Dog owners

Kevin Comiskey said all dog owners should take heed that they are fully liable for all damage and suffering caused to farmers and their sheep by their dogs.

“The irresponsible behavior of some dog owners continues to lead to devastating consequences on farms and must stop,” he said.

He said this is a critical time of year on sheep farms as lambing gets underway and dog attacks are causing “unimaginable suffering” for sheep and lambs and “huge economic losses” for farmers.

The IFA chair added that dogs should not be allowed in or near farmland and he urged all dog owners to behave in a responsible way and adhere to this.

IFA has previously set out what it said needs to be done, including:

  1. A single national database for all dogs in the country that identifies the person responsible for the dog;
  2. Tougher sanctions for those found in non-compliance of the microchipping obligations of dog owners;
  3. more appropriate sanctions for those who fail to have their dog under their control at all times and for those whose dogs are identified worrying/attacking livestock;
  4. Additional resources to ensure compliance with the obligations of dog owners.

Kevin Comiskey said the ministers must deliver the strengthened legislation as a matter of urgency and have it in effect before year end.