AHEAD of the forthcoming lambing season, Coleraine Borough Council is calling on all dog owners to be vigilant, due to the increasing rate of sheep worrying.
A dog does not necessarily have to physically attack and bite a sheep for it to be deemed as worrying, however dogs can cause severe injury.
Dogs instinctively chase sheep, causing them to unconsciously run and others to follow. Sheep frighten easily when chased and may run into nearby rivers, shucks or undergrowth resulting in drowning or injury. The fear of being chased can also cause ewes to miscarry.
Any dog can be capable of sheep worrying resulting in injury regardless of breed, size or temperament. It is an offence under the Dogs Order 1983 as amended to allow a dog to worry sheep.
Usually in a sheep worrying incident more than one dog is involved which can have a severe implication in a farmer’s livelihood.
Kieran Doherty, Director of Environmental Services for the area said: “Residents of the borough may not be aware of sheep worrying, therefore we are trying to highlight the consequences to both the farmer and the dog owner before the forthcoming lambing season.
“All dogs must be kept secure at all times to prevent sheep worrying and to prevent members of the public being prosecuted.
Council has an obligation under the dogs order to investigate incidents of sheep worrying. As a result, if the dog owner is taken to court for such an offence they may receive a hefty fine, the dog may be ordered to be destroyed and will also be liable for any damage and loss to the farmer.
It is essential, especially in rural areas to ensure that any pet dogs are kept secure at all times. A farmer has the right to shoot a dog found to be on his land worrying livestock if there is no other reasonable way to control the dog. Council takes incidents of sheep worrying very seriously and will pursue owners via court.