Last week the Wicklow Cheviot Sheep Owners Association made a presentation to Wicklow County Council on the ongoing issue of sheep kills by dogs in the county. The presentation was made at the request of Cllr. Pat Kennedy by the Chair and Vice-Chair of the association, Pat Dunne and Peter Behan.
There are 155,209 breeding ewes in Wicklow with 233,000 lambs born every year making the county the fifth largest in Ireland in terms of sheep numbers.
Sheep kills by dogs across the county are multiplying every year and have become a significant issue for all sheep farmers. Dogs kill and ravage sheep, generally attacking faces, throats and stomachs. Many sheep that aren’t killed outright have to be put down afterwards by vets or die from shock. Unborn lambs are often lost or have to be aborted. Many sheep die in the following days or weeks after the ordeal.
During the presentation, images of sheep, both alive and dead, in the aftermath of these attacks were shown to the chamber. These caused visible distress to those present.
Attacks often don’t take very long and only last a few minutes but the repercussions can last for a long time after. Aside from the impact on the sheep, there can be a large financial and emotional impact on the farmers. They are often forced to house sheep after for fear of more and that brings the extra financial burden of extra feeding, bedding, and energy costs. There is also the additional veterinary costs associated with the attacks.
Mr. Dunne and Mr. Behan outlined that the law is against sheep farmers as it is put on them to take dog owners to court and many farmers won’t want to go down this route. They asked that the council write to Ministers McConalogue and Humphreys and ask that a national database be put in place for all dogs in the country for microchipping and licensing and that extra dog wardens working flexible hours be put in place to ensure there are dog wardens working weekends. This was agreed by all members who also agreed to request that Coillte add on and develop their open access policy to include that dogs should be on leashes when out and about in the countryside.
Speaking after the meeting Cllr. Pat Kennedy said “sheep farming is an undervalued industry in Wicklow generating €23 million. It needs to be taken seriously. If we had a company coming into the county with that turnover we’d be rolling out the red carpet for them.”
He went on to say “I was delighted to be able to organise this here today and I’ll continue to work with all farmers on this issue”.