Appeal for responsible dog owners during lambing season

Dog owners are being reminded by Wicklow County Council of their responsibilities and the vulnerability of sheep to dog attacks during lambing season. The Council is working in partnership with the IFA, Wicklow Uplands Council and Wicklow Outdoor Recreation Committee to raise awareness of this issue.

Mr Tom Byrne, Wicklow IFA Chairman, welcomed the collaboration with the various parties, stating: “This is a critical time of year on sheep farms as lambing season is now upon us. It is the time that sheep flocks are at their most vulnerable to incidences of worrying and attacks by dogs and where dog attacks are causing unimaginable suffering for sheep and lambs and huge economic losses for farmers.”

The IFA launched a ‘No Dogs Allowed’ campaign last year to highlight the issue of dog attacks on sheep and believe there is an urgent need to strengthen the legislation, include appropriate sanctions and develop a single national database identifying dogs and their owners.

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, according to Brian Dunne of Wicklow Uplands Council, who further noted “It is also an important breeding season for ground-nesting birds and wildlife which along with sheep, can become startled by the presence of dogs”.

Carol Coad, Rural Recreation Officer, Wicklow Partnership, in acknowledging that outdoor recreation enhances daily life and improves physical and mental health, reiterated the need for environmental and community awareness, stating that “Respect for the rural community is a core principle of the Wicklow Outdoor Recreation Strategy and all participants are asked to be responsible when accompanied by their canine friends.”

Cllr Tommy Annesley, Leas Cathaoirleach, Wicklow County Council, also welcomed the partnership approach and stated:  “This awareness campaign is highlighting the role that all dog owners must play in tackling this serious issue” and asked that “dog owners be vigilant in keeping dogs under control and knowing where their dogs are at all times, especially at night when most attacks occur.”

Chief Executive of Wicklow County Council, Brian Gleeson, commended the interagency approach to the awareness campaign and asked that all dog owners and dog walkers responsibly comply with the guidelines for visiting farmland areas.

The following guidelines should be followed by 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 or close by. Some landowners forbid dogs entirely, whereas others including the state, may request the use of leads.

·      In situations outside of the home, dog owners must legally ensure that their dogs are under ‘effectual’ control at all times. Attacks on sheep can result in financial losses to the farmer, for which the dog owner can be held liable.

·      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.

·      Please respect and be aware of wildlife as the presence of dogs can disturb ground-nesting birds and other animals during the breeding season.

·      Know where your dogs are at all times – attacks often occur at night  

·      Report wandering dogs and suspicious sights to your local authorities.

·      Make sure that your dog(s) are registered and microchipped and that a current licence is in place for each of them – this is now a legal requirement for ALL dogs.

·      Dog fouling is the responsibility of the owner. Please collect and dispose of all faeces in an appropriate manner – this includes plastic bags used in the process. 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.

If anyone witnesses 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 reported as soon as possible following the incident.   Please contact:  0404 -20236 or  env@wicklowcoco.ie

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