Monday, 13 February 2017

Wicklow Uplands Council Advocates Safety and Responsibility of Dog Ownership

A recent attack on sheep at the Featherbeds resulted in the death of two ewes. Tracks in the snow indicated that a dog had chased the sheep a short distance before catching and inflicting horrific injuries. Footprints close by indicated that a person was also in the area at the time who presumably took the dog from the scene. It is not clear who this person was, but they did not report the incident. Wicklow Uplands Council highlighted the incident on their social media which raised a lot of attention and debate.   Wicklow Uplands Council would like to take this opportunity to clarify the current regulations regarding the control of dogs, and specifically in relation to livestock.
Under the Control of Dogs Act 1986 and amended by the Control of Dogs (Amendment) Act 1992 all local authorities in Ireland are responsible for the control of dogs. Dog owners are liable for injury or damage caused their dogs to people or livestock and local authorities can seize dogs, impose on-the-spot fines and take court proceedings against owners.  Dogs should be licensed, micro-chipped and wear an ID tag. 
Dogs and livestock don’t mix – even the smallest tail wagging pet can have a change in personality when confronted with livestock.  Sheep and lambs are very easily stressed when confronted by a dog – even when the dog is on a lead.   Sheep are very easily frightened and pregnant ewes have been known to abort their lambs following an encounter with a dog.  Cattle too, especially cows with calves, can consider the dog a threat to their offspring and act aggressively towards the dog and the owner.  Horses and their riders are also vulnerable when dogs are allowed to roam unsupervised.
The behaviour of a boisterous uncontrolled dog can have an adverse effect on other dogs and their owners and can also leave a lasting effect on impressionable young children. 
Other wildlife living in the Uplands – for example ground nesting birds in open land can be scared from the nest by even the friendliest of dogs just doing a bit of sniffing around. This is especially the case in spring and summer so it is important to keep your dog on a lead. If parent birds leave the nest, the eggs become cold and the chicks may die.

Remember it is important to clear up your dog’s mess in the countryside as this can cause infections in people or wildlife and can cause serious illness and death in livestock. For example, worms from dogs’ mess can cause ‘gid’ which is a fatal disease that attacks the brains of sheep.

There is, in general a good relationship between recreational users and farmers in the Uplands.  Every weekend significant numbers of recreational users are welcomed to enjoy the Wicklow uplands. Most visitors and recreational users are responsible people who love and respect the scenery, the animals and the people who live there.
Signs are abundant in the Uplands, indicating where livestock are grazing. Please respect them and do not bring your dog onto a farm. 
Wicklow Uplands Council advises anyone who witnesses incidences of sheep worrying to report to An GardaĆ­.  Recreational users can play a role in bringing incidents of dog worrying and injured animals to the attention of the landowner, who cannot supervise their livestock 24/7.
The education of dog owners remains a key priority in preventing similar incidents. The Leave No Trace Ireland guide and the Wicklow Cheviot Sheep Owners’ booklet are useful resources for dog owners and can be downloaded from our website
Again, if you encounter incidents of livestock worrying, please report immediately to the local Garda Station or Wicklow County Council
Ph: 0404 20236 or Email: 
Stray dogs should be reported to ISPCA Dog Warden Service Ph: 0404 44873.

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