Deputy president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), William Irvine, has said that farmers “cannot continue to tolerate” instances of livestock worrying in Northern Ireland.

Irvine is urging all rural dog owners to be aware that “Northern Ireland’s countryside plays home to many pregnant ewes and newborn lambs” during springtime.

The livestock worrying incident in Co. Armagh resulted in the death of a sheep. Image: UFU

“Dogs should not be allowed to disturb these animals,” he said.

“I would remind all dog owners, whether walking along rural roads or through the countryside next to fields and farms, that dogs must be kept under control as there is the potential for livestock worrying,” he said.

“We repeatedly issue this advice, however, it continues to be dismissed by many.”

Irvine said that a UFU member in Co. Armagh fell victim to “devastating livestock worrying incident on his flock” last week.

“There is a consensus amongst dog owners that their pet dog would not engage in such attacks, however, I would urge dog owners to remember that the desire to hunt and chase is part of any dog’s natural instinct,” he said.

“If a dog were to engage in a chase this could result in injury or death of those sheep who fall foul to the actions of irresponsible dog owners.”

Livestock welfare

Dog attacks, Irvine said, cause stress and trauma to flocks, but also to the farmer and the farmer’s family.

Sheep that have been chased by dogs in the past and have survived never fully recover from the attack, he said.

“The welfare of livestock is a priority for farmers and any attack on sheep is also an attack on the farmer’s livelihood.

“The safest and most appropriate thing for all dog walkers to do is to always keep their dog(s) on a lead when out exploring – I cannot emphasis this enough. When dog owners do not keep their dogs on a lead and act responsibly, there are consequences,” the UFU deputy president said.

Irvine urged any farmer that falls victim to a livestock worrying incident to contact their local dog warden for investigation.

“In Northern Ireland dog wardens are employed by each of the eleven local councils and can be contacted via the telephone,” he said.