Dog attacks can devastate sheep flocks

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Mid Ulster District Council is reminding dog owners to act responsibly and ensure their dog in under control at all times and securely housed at night.

At this time of year dog attacks on livestock, especially sheep can be very high due to the lambing season.

A council spokesperson said: “This is a serious concern for farmers as there can be quite a substantiafinancial 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 says it 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. They say the owner could 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.

Meanwhile, figures from an insurance company show that farm animals savaged by dogs in Northern Ireland in the past four years were worth a total of £289,000.

According to research from the insurer, NFU Mutual, three-quarters of dog owners say they would like “heavy fines” and a crackdown on livestock worrying.

The insurer, who said they cover 89% of farmers in Northern Ireland, told the News Letter they were mounting a campaign to encourage dog owners to keep their pets under control.

The new research shows that more dog owners are putting their petson a lead when livestock is nearbut the same research also reveals that many of the attacks are being carried out by dogs who escaped from a garden.

One-in-six dog owners admit having allowed their pet to escape, the research shows.

Known as livestock worrying, dog attacks on farm animals can result in horrific and often fatal injuries.

Even if a dog dosen’t make contact, the distress of the chase can cause sheep to die and miscarry their lambs.

The peak time for attacks, NFU Mutual said, is from January to April, during the lambing period.

Anyone who witnesses a dog worrying or attacking livestock is encouraged to report it to the Council’s Dog Warden or Enforcement Officer by telephoning 03000 132 132.