‘They absolutely cause mayhem’: Ministers warn about dogs attacking animals

Farmer raises issue of ‘livestock worrying’ with about 240 incidents reported in 2020

 Donie Anderson, who runs a sheepfarm  neighbouring Pat Lee’s in Glenasmole, Co Dublin, with Minister for Rural Affairs Heather Humphreys, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State for Farm Safety Martin Heydon  to highlight the responsibilities of dog owners this lambing season. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Donie Anderson, who runs a sheepfarm neighbouring Pat Lee’s in Glenasmole, Co Dublin, with Minister for Rural Affairs Heather Humphreys, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State for Farm Safety Martin Heydon to highlight the responsibilities of dog owners this lambing season. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Farmer Pat Lee stood on commonage in the Dublin Mountains on Thursday and watched approvingly as a sheep dog moved ewes – closely followed by three ministers and a party of journalists – around a mountain road near Glenasmole.

The occasion was a photoshoot for the start of an awareness campaign for what is called “livestock worrying” by dogs.

In 2020, there were some 240 incidents of “livestock worrying” – with a similar number expected in 2021.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, Minister of State for Farm Safety Martin Heydon and Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys, braved the cold upland region to express concern about the impact of marauding dogs on the farming community.

Ms Humphreys said “dogs will cause sheep to abort lambs, we have seen it before, they absolutely cause mayhem, the sheep will never be the same again once they have been attacked by dogs”.

Asked if hill farming was a difficult life, Mr Lee said: “I was 76 yesterday and I would like to get out.”

Farming his own land as well as having access to about 81 hecares (200 acres) of commonage has been his life’s work, he said. But in recent years he had to give up cattle due to dangers of tuberculosis from wild deer. The occasional live lamb goes missing from the mountainside and every year he loses about three ewes to dogs.

Mr Lee would like to hand over to his daughter and her family he said, but “it is not easy”. Succession planning was difficult, planning permission for successors to build was another issue.

The dogs causing the problems were not wild dogs he said, but dogs that people bring up to the mountains and let out for a run.

Despite the difficulties Mr McConalogue said there “certainly is” a future for farms in such upland areas. He instanced the Sustainable Uplands Agri-environment Scheme (Suas) which aims to develop practical solutions for agricultural, environmental and socio-economic challenges associated with commonages and farms on the Wicklow/Dublin uplands.

“It is very heartening that Pat has a daughter that wants to take over and we are also seeing a great example here today of how farming is becoming much broader in terms of not just producing the tremendous food that we do – we have lamb produced here off organic hills – but also in terms of protecting eco systems and biodiversity”, he said. He said the Suas scheme was providing a habitat for grouse while also bringing additional income in environmental payments for farmers.

The three Ministers reminded dog owners that Under the Control of Dogs Act fines of up to €2,500 and imprisonment for up to three months, can be imposed on owners of marauding dogs. Separately, the Act also makes the owner of a dog liable for damages associated with an attack by the dog on a person or livestock.