ATTACKS on sheep flocks by dogs both in Laois and around the country have led to calls for dog owners to take full responsibilty for their pets.
A Mountmellick farming family were left “devastated” after they caught two alsations in the process of killing and maiming some of their flock of sheep.
The attack which happened on Christmas week, saw the family lose 14 sheep out of their flock of 200. There were also a number of sheep injured and traumatised by the attack.
Speaking to the Leinster Express, Claire O’ Brien said that as well as the injured and dead sheep, she and husband Henry Burns also found another batch of ewes in another field huddled together, ovbiously scared of what was happening around them. Claire said that the dogs in question may have been let out for a morning run and she thought they were not out too long.
“They were panting but they were not stopping”, she said.
Both the local Gardaí and the dog warden came to the scene, where one of the dogs was shot. There have been a number of sheep kills in the area over the past couple of months, with a variety of dogs involved, according to Claire.
She said that the animals were “two decent dogs who got a taste of blood”, adding that it is a problem all over the area and people have refrained from walking on some roads because of vicious dogs.
“It is not that the dogs are bad, we have our own dog, but she is locked up at night. Farmers are not anti-dog, most have dogs. Every single night sheep around the country are being killed by dogs, and you have to be very lucky to catch the dog”.
Claire added that she and Henry are now living on their nerves that such an attack will happen again, adding that out of approximately 200 sheep, to lose 14 is a big percentage.
“There is not a huge margin in sheep. We are suffering a loss of income, it is a savage cut to our income. It is the loss of that breeding unit for years to come plus the loss of lambs. There can also be deformed or stillborn lambs after an attack”.
She added that farmers are relying on people to look after their dogs.
“It would be nice if people were less tolerant of roaming dogs - the law says they have to be under control. People defend dogs like children and they don’t mind them like children - it has to stop”.
IFA National Sheep Chairman James Murphy echoed this, sating that attacks like this, including the recent one in Roscommon were too common. He said that under the Control of Dogs Act, it states very clearly: “If a dog worries livestock, the owner or any other person in charge of the dog shall be guilty of an offence unless it is established that at the material time the dog worried the livestock for the purpose of removing trespassing livestock and that having regard to all the circumstances the action was reasonable and necessary.”
He said that up to 2.5m lambs will be born on 30,000 sheep farms across the country over the next three months, and that sheep flocks are very vulnerable to dog attacks, especially during the night.
“Aside from the economic losses, for which dog owners can be held liable, the welfare implications for the flock can be very severe and long-lasting. Sheep never recover fully from a dog attack and can suffer ongoing difficulties, including reproduction problems and increased nervousness affecting their general health.”