More than 170 sheep killed or injured by dogs this year

Irish Farmers Association calls on dog owners to take responsibility for pets

In an effort to reduce the number of sheep attacks, the Irish Farmers Association has called on dog owners to ensure their pets are under control at all times. Photograph: Chris Helgren/Reuters

In an effort to reduce the number of sheep attacks, the Irish Farmers Association has called on dog owners to ensure their pets are under control at all times. Photograph: Chris Helgren/Reuters

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The death or injury of 171 sheep has been reported to a hotline set up by the Irish Farmers Association to monitor the incidence of dog attacks on sheep.

Its sheep chairman John Lynskey urged dog owners to take more responsibility for their animals, saying he was hearing of a growing number of savage dog attacks.

One farmer in Co Wicklow reported the death or injury of 50 sheep while two incidents in Co Laois led to the death or injury of 44 sheep. While some sheep survive attacks, they often miscarry their lambs because of the stress involved. The problem became so acute for one farmer in the midlands that he slept in the field for several nights to ensure that his sheep flock was safe.

“Unfortunately, I am taking calls on a frequent basis from sheep farmers around the country who have suffered attacks,” Mr Lynskey said. “There are far too many dog owners not taking the responsibility that goes with owning a pet. Dog owners have an obligation to have their dog under control at all times.”

He warned dog owners that they could be held responsible for such attacks, with serious financial and legal consequences. “Sheep flocks are very vulnerable to dog attacks at this critical time, and especially during the night.”

Mr Lynskey also encouraged farmers to keep a full record of the attack, which could be used as evidence at a later stage.

Meanwhile, an award-winning project by four school children to solve the problem of dog attacks has raised almost €8,000 on the crowd-funding website Fund It. The campaign to raise €10,000 to develop the project ends later this week.

The Sheep Watch collar has a pulse monitor and when the sheep’s pulse elevates above normal for a sustained period, the device sends a VHF signal to a GSM receiver. The farmer then gets a text to let him know his sheep are under stress.

The project, led by Emma McCabe (13) with class mates in St Oliver’s Post Primary School in Oldcastle, Co Meath, won the junior category of the Student Enterprise Awards earlier this month. Tallaght Institute of Technology is working with the students to develop the prototype and they hope to have the product on the shelves for next year’s lambing season.

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