A recent spate of dog attacks on livestock, particularly sheep, has resulted in a new campaign from Mid Ulster District Council to warn the public of the dangers of sheep worrying and to urge dog owners to keep their dogs securely housed at night.
The Council has received 14 complaints about sheep worrying over the past two months alone, which when combined with 23 incidents reported from 1 April last year, brings the total to 37 since the new Council commenced a year ago.
At this time of year dog attacks on livestock, especially sheep can be high due to it being lambing season. The attacks mostly take place at night when many owners believe their dogs are not free to roam.
This is a serious concern for farmers as there can be quite a substantial financial loss to them should their animals be lost, injured or killed.
The results of dog attacks are often vicious resulting in terrible injuries. Although it is recognised that the vast majority of dogs are well looked after and are friendly family pets, all dogs have the potential to inflict injury and to worry livestock.
The Council is therefore advising dog owners to continue to act responsibly and ensure their dog is under control at all times and securely housed at night.
The Council has the authority to seize any dog (of any type and breed) suspected of being involved in worrying or attacking livestock and prosecution will then be sought against the owner if it is proven.
The owner will face considerable costs including a £1000 fine, court costs and in some cases the cost of having their dog humanely destroyed.
A civil case may also be brought by the farmer for any financial loss suffered.
Chair of the Council’s Environment Committee, Councillor Christine McFlynn is urging dog owners to be responsible and know the whereabouts of their dog at all times.
She added: “While the majority of dog owners act responsibly there are still some who take little precaution and let their dogs roam unsupervised. Sheep and livestock worrying is a huge concern for farmers in Northern Ireland with many experiencing the devastation it can cause first hand with their livestock being distressed, injured or killed by dogs.
“Everyone involved suffers when it comes to sheep worrying. Farmers bear the serious financial and emotional cost of the incident and dog owners may face destroying their dog, a criminal prosecution and a hefty fine if their dog is identified.”
Councillor McFlynn concluded: “I just want to remind all dog owners to pay heed to the message of this campaign and keep their dog securely housed at night or pay the price!”Anyone who witnesses a dog worrying or attacking livestock is encouraged to report the incident to the Council’s Dog Warden or Enforcement Officer by telephoning 03000 132 132.