Dog owners still allowing dogs to attack livestock

Friday, 3 May, 2019

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says dog owners are continuing to ignore the advice to keep their animals away from livestock.  UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt, says it is wrong that farmers continue to pay for people's lack of respect for the countryside and for farming families to continue to witness the effects of attacks on livestock.  His comments came after a number of incidents over Easter, including an attack on an Armagh farm, which saw ewes, and their lambs killed and maimed by a dog attack involving a number of animals.

“Dog owners need to understand that when a dog attacks livestock it has a far-reaching impact on farm families.  Insurance may cover direct losses, but this does not compensate for the knock on impact on breeding programmes and flock genetics. It also does not take into consideration the unnecessary suffering of the animal,” said Mr Chestnutt.  He criticised the lack of understanding displayed by some dog owners, who cannot see their pets as potential killers.  “One recently claimed to me that if a dog does not draw blood no harm has been done.  This is a ridiculous assumption.  The stress of the chase alone kills sheep,” he said.

The UFU deputy president said people must accept the need to keep their dog on a lead at all times in the countryside.  He also stressed that those living close to rural areas must make sure their animals cannot escape to wreak havoc on farms.  “People view their animals as pets incapable of doing something like this.  However it is in their nature and dog owners need to understand that in extreme situations farmers have a right to protect their livestock from attack,” he warned.

In response to the continuing rise in the number of attacks, the UFU is suggesting practical steps farmers can take.  These include checking livestock regularly, erecting signs warning dog owners to keep animals on a leash, ensuring fences are sound and working with neighbours to identify and respond to threats from dogs.  

“Farmers will take all necessary steps to protect their livestock and dog owners should be aware that we are now taking a stance against livestock worrying similar to that of rural crime.  All incidences should be reported to the local dog warden and PSNI,” said Mr Chestnutt.

Local dog wardens are employed by each of the eleven councils in Northern Ireland.