Disappointment as dog owners still allow dogs to worry livestock

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Despite having raised the profile of livestock worrying incidents in Northern Ireland in recent months, UFU Deputy President Victor Chestnutt has said that he is ‘utterly disappointed’ that Northern Ireland farmers and their families are still left to deal with the aftermath of attacks on their livestock.

This comes on the back of a number of incidents, which occurred over the Easter period including an attack in County Armagh where several ewes and baby lambs were chased, attacked and savagely killed by a number of dogs.

Mr Chestnutt said: “I would again remind all dog owners that when a dog attacks an animal, they are interfering with the livelihood of not only the flock’s shepherd but also the livelihood of their family. Insurance policies can cover the cost of replacing stock but the knock on effect to breeding programmes is immense and in many cases, it has taken generations to build upon the flock’s genetics. Recently I spoke with one dog owner who claimed that if a dog does not draw blood from the animal that they have chased then there has been no harm done. This could not be further from the truth with the stress and exhaustion of the chase alone having proved itself in the past to be more than capable of taking the life of a ewe or ram.”

The UFU has again appealed to all dog owners who bring their dog to the countryside to ensure that they keep their pet on a lead at all times. Dog owners should also take the preventative steps required to ensure that their dog will not escape from their home and engage in incidences of livestock worrying whilst enjoying their newly found freedom.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union have also issued the following steps to farmers to help prevent attacks on their livestock:

l Check livestock regularly

l Erect signage warning dog owners of the need to keep their dog under control when in the countryside

l Ensure that fences, walls and hedges are maintained

l Ask and alert neighbouring farmers to attacks or reports of loose dogs

Farmers will take all necessary steps to protect their livestock from attack and dog owners should be aware that farmers are now taking a stance against livestock worrying similar to that of rural crime. All incidences of livestock worrying should be reported to the local dog warden and PSNI for investigation. Local dog wardens are employed by each of the eleven Councils in Northern Ireland and can be contacted on the list (right).

Those dog owners who permit their dog(s) to engage in such attacks may face hefty fines and dog owners should be aware that many courts will order that the dog(s) involved should be destroyed. Of course, dog owners should not forget that those farmers whose livestock is killed or injured as a result of a dog worrying their animals can sue the dog owner for compensation under the Animal Act 1971.

Mr Chestnutt concluded: “I wish to leave a clear message with all dog owners - respect the countryside, keep your dog on a lead and ensure that your dog is not permitted to stray.”