Waking up to find dead sheep and lambs strewn across a field that would otherwise be regarded as a calm surrounding, is becoming a more and more familiar sight to farmers and landowners these days.
However, while the problem of marauding dogs and their ability to leave a trail of destruction in their wake is on the increase, it is not something that north Longford farmers have to face on a regular basis. So when one landowner in the area entered his field recently week to find a dog standing over maimed and dead sheep, it was too much to bear.
Three lambs were killed in the incident earlier this month, while a further 12 ewes and 14 lambs were injured.
The farmer immediately ran back to his house, grabbed his legally-held shotgun, and killed the animal as it ran from the destruction it had caused.
The farmer said he simply could not fathom what was before his eyes when he went to check on the flock early one morning.
“The first thing I saw was the Alsatian, standing over my dead sheep and lambs and him eating one of the lambs - I couldn’t believe my eyes and I ran back to the house, got the gun and shot the dog. After that there was this eerie silence and a field full of dead and maimed sheep and lambs.”
The farmer and his wife who subsequently called the gardai, spent the following two days attending to the injured animals, disposing of carcases and dealing with vets.
Speaking to the Leader, he said that his remaining flock “will never be the same again” and yet despite all the damage caused by the marauding dog, he pointed out, “I got no pleasure shooting the dog; We are dog lovers ourselves but I was trying to protect my flock.”
Just over two weeks on, the north Longford farming family are still trying to deal with the fallout from the attack.
“We are still tending to some, because many of them were very badly injured,” the farmer added. “We have had to house a number of ewes and they are now dry, and as well as that, the tendons in the necks of a few of the lambs were also damaged and that could take a long time to sort out. It has cost us financially, of course it has, but the reality is that this just cannot happen to another farmer.”
Irish law places the responsibility of marauding dogs firmly in the hands of its owners. The north Longford farmers were keen to point this out, and also to highlight what can happen when the “family pet” meets up with other dogs in the locality.
“The owners must take responsibility for their dogs,” the farmer continued. “Dogs like Alsatians have a natural instinct to kill, so the owner must exercise control over them - and that goes for all dogs; people don’t realise what their pet is capable of when it encounters other dogs along the way - so dog owners must exercise control. I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the neighbours and the local gardaí for all their help and support when this happened.”
Both the gardaí and Longford Co Council have advised dog owners to “exercise control” over their pets, and warned that prosecutions will ensue where there is evidence to suggest otherwise.