The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the Ulster Farmers’ Union are calling on all dog owners to be careful in the countryside.
The call follows a meeting between DAERA and the UFU which highlighted the issue of dogs worrying livestock. Amid reports of increasing incidents, farmers are concerned for the welfare of their animals.
A DAERA spokesperson said: “We understand the real concerns of farmers in this regard, but the solution lies with dog owners. That is why we are appealing for anyone who owns a dog to take particular care in rural areas.
“It might seem like a fairly minor act of negligence to let a dog run free in the countryside, but it can have particularly harmful, and potentially expensive, consequences for farmers.
“As we come into the good weather, and more people are out and about with their dogs, we ask that they be mindful of the environment around them. Do not let dogs run out of control, especially in areas where there may be livestock.
“As owners or keepers are responsible for any damage caused, this is one area where prevention is better than cure. Even the best-trained dog can inadvertently distress farmyard animals. Owners should take steps to avoid any situation where their pet might encounter livestock.
“We will continue to work with the UFU and other organisations to monitor and address the issue.”
James O’Brien, Ulster Farmers’ Union Legislation Chairman said: “With more and more urban dwellers moving to the countryside, this has brought an increased number of dogs to rural areas resulting in more and more dog owners using the countryside to exercise their pets. Indeed with more attacks being carried out by stray dogs this would also suggest that dogs are escaping from their homes and engaging in livestock worrying.
“The UFU would also encourage its members to check stock regularly in case of attack, maintain walls, fences and hedges with the aim of making it more difficult for dogs to gain access to fields where livestock are grazing and help each other as regards alerting one another if loose dogs are sighted near livestock.”
Farmers are encouraged to report all incidences of livestock worrying to the PSNI and their local Dog Warden as and when they occur. This is to ensure accurate data is collected to get a better understanding of the scale of the issue and deploy resources accordingly.
Notes to editors:
1. The Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983 makes provision with respect to dogs in Northern Ireland by, in particular:
(i) Restating the law about the control of dogs and extending the provisions with respect to stray dogs, the control of dogs on certain roads and on land and, in particular, providing a penalty for attacking a person in addition to the penalty for worrying livestock; and
(ii) Providing for district councils to enforce the law through officers of the councils (Dog Wardens).
2. Article (52) of the Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983 provides for each district council to furnish the Department with information, in this case dog statistics.
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