Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Local farmer Tomás McCarthy’s three sheep were killed in a dog attack on Mt Leinster last Thursday. Also pictured is the dog who killed them, which was subsequently destroyed

By Suzanne Pender

BLACKSTAIRS sheep farmers may be forced to call for an all-out ban on dogs on Mt Leinster, given the shocking rise in brutal sheep attacks.

Several areas in Co Carlow, including Slievebawn, Coolasneachta, the Nine Stones and the vicinity of Mt Leinster, have reported sheep attacks in recent weeks, the vicious aftermath an unimaginable horror for the farmers concerned. Dogs kill and ravage sheep, generally attacking faces, throats and stomachs. Many sheep that aren’t killed outright have to be put down afterwards by vets or die from shock. Unborn lambs are often lost or have to be aborted, while many sheep die in the following days or weeks after the ordeal.

“It may come to a complete ban on dogs because we are fighting for our livelihoods,” pleaded sheep farmer Tomás McCarthy, who had three sheep cruelly killed by a dog on Mt Leinster last Thursday.

“This is every week now. Farmers are having sheep killed in dog attacks and this is by dogs let off the lead and allowed to roam around the Nine Stones, Sliabh Bán and the Mt Leinster areas … no-one can stick that,” said Tomás.

Tomás’s sheep were attacked by a Pitbull dog, who went missing from his home in the nearby area. “The owner has come forward and the dog was destroyed. Nobody wants their dog to kill sheep,” reflected Tomás.

“Look, I’m a dog lover myself and nine out of ten people who go up there to walk their dog are responsible and co-operate and keep their dog on a lead, but there’s plenty that don’t. At this time of year, sheep on the hill are heavily in lamb and you’re doing your best to look after them and feed them. They are very vulnerable and we’re having to deal with these attacks on a regular basis. There are six or seven farmers I know who’ve had sheep killed in the last few weeks,” revealed Tomás.

Co Carlow IFA and the group Blackstairs Farming Futures are deeply concerned about the situation. It is understood that signs advising dog owners to keep their dogs on a lead have been erected on Mt Leinster in the past, but are regularly pulled down or vandalised.

“If it stays like this, as a group we’ll have to call for a ban on dogs altogether; we’re after trying everything at this stage … we’re out of our minds over it,” said Tomás.

Marian Dalton, chairperson of Co Carlow IFA’s sheep committee, insists that people have to know where their dogs are at all times and keep them under control.

“It’s a big issue at the moment. Even if sheep who are run aren’t killed, they are ruined afterwards and at this time of year they are heavily in lamb or may have lambs,” she said.

The organisation is also concerned about the recent promotion of Mt Leinster for dog walking.

“I’m a dog lover. I’ve four dogs myself here, but I would actually discourage dog walkers from Mt Leinster at this time with sheep in lamb,” said Marian.

And it’s not just Co Carlow farmers facing this issue.

Last week, Wicklow Cheviot Sheep Owners’ Association made a presentation to Wicklow County Council about the ongoing issue of sheep kills by dogs in the county. The presentation was made at the request of cllr Pat Kennedy by Pat Dunne and Peter Behan, the respective chair and vice-chair of the association.

Mr Dunne and Mr Behan outlined that the law is against sheep farmers, as the burden is placed on them to take dog owners to court, and many farmers won’t want to go down this route.

Members of Wicklow County Council agreed to write to ministers McConalogue and Humphreys, calling for a national database to be put in place for all dogs in the country for microchipping and licensing and that extra dog wardens be put in place to ensure that dog wardens work weekends.





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