Responsible dog control continues to be a major issue for upland sheep farmers resulting in the loss and serious injury of their flock and the financial and emotional burden that it creates.
As recreational use of the Wicklow Uplands increases, the presence of dogs close to farmland areas and the hills used for sheep farming requires a greater awareness of Responsible Dog Control.
Uncontrolled dogs are a serious threat to the livelihood of upland farmers. Dogs loose on the hills cause anxiety within a flock of sheep often causing them to be displaced and getting stuck in rough ground and vegetation. One of the impacts that is often unseen by recreational users is the early abortion of lambs and in the worst incidences; dogs directly attack sheep causing them severe injury or death.
When a flock is disturbed, the loss of young lambs due to hunger can also occur if they become separated from their mother, the source of essential milk. This is not just a problem for the landowner in terms of their livelihood but it is also a serious animal welfare issue.
The problem is not limited to walker’s dogs with damage often being caused by local dogs which stray from neighbouring properties and their owners are unaware of their whereabouts.
Over the last two weeks, there has been two reported incidents close to the village of Aughrim, where newly born lambs were killed and maimed. In both cases, the dogs were found in the midst of the attack and destroyed onsite.
The farming community close to Clara Vale/Ballylug/Trooperstown have also recently seen a number of serious incidents involving multiple sheep losses and over 30 deer been killed by two dogs identified as possible hunting dogs that have gone feral. One dog was killed on the 13th of January with the second dog described as a large tawny coloured lurcher mix still at large. The finding of a deer carcass last week indicates that it remains active in the area.
Wicklow Uplands Council have issued the following guidelines for all dog owners living or visiting farmland areas to ensure that they continue to play a crucial role in making them a safer place for all to enjoy.
· Please observe and respect local signage and leave dogs at home if accessing land where livestock are present, there are many locations that are suitable for dog walking across the county including Coillte forests.
- The presence of dogs even with playful intent, can cause great anxiety within a flock of sheep. During the winter months this can prevent ewes from coming into season. In lambing season it is the main cause of stillbirths and miscarriages, which can occur 2-3 days after contact with dogs.
· Know where your dogs are at all times – attacks often occur at night, so this is also true at the homeplace.
· Keep dogs under ‘effectual’ control at all times including the use of a leash where appropriate or directed to do so.
· Report wandering dogs and suspicious sights to your local authorities.
· Make sure your dog(s) are registered and microchipped – this is now a legal requirement for ALL dogs.
· Dog fouling is the responsibility of the owner. Failure to clean up is a public health concern and is an offence under section 22 of the Litter Pollution Acts.
· Share this advice with others.
· Enjoy and experience nature responsibly and respectfully.
Reporting of Incidents
If you witness an incident of sheep worrying or damage to livestock in Wicklow, please report it immediately to Wicklow County Council. It is important that all incidents be report as soon as possible following the incident.
On 0404 -20236 Email, firstname.lastname@example.org
According to Brian Dunne, Coordinator of Wicklow Uplands Council:
“With an estimated 300 – 400 attacks occurring nationwide each year which results in up to 4,000 sheep killed or seriously injured, the message of responsible dog control is a very serious one”
“Sadly, Co. Wicklow experienced several very serious sheep attacks last year and Wicklow Uplands Council continue to highlight the important role that dog owners need to undertake in tackling this issue.”