Be a responsible dog owner during lambing season

Posted in Connect on January 31, 2019.

As the lambing season approaches an appeal has been made to dog owners across Mayo to keep their mutts under control and to be aware of where they are at all times, writes Tom Gillespie.

The county dog warden, Laura Mulligan, has issued the warning that farmers have a right to shoot any dog/s that are caught worrying livestock.

Donegal native Laura has been dog warden with Mayo County Council for over three years.

Laura, who has been in Mayo for the past 16 years, explained: “We are coming into lambing season now and a lot of people will still let their dogs roam – thankfully not as many as used to, but they still let them roam. It still happens, unfortunately.

“In some rural areas you have people who have moved from a town setting into a rural area who are not aware of their responsibilities concerning the control of dogs. They think that their dog knows its boundary and won’t wander.

“You are bringing a dog from a town to where it’s now being more stimulated by birds, noises, animals and smells. A lot of the time they will just wander into a field, the wrong field.

“If a dog is caught in the act of worrying sheep or worrying any livestock – it does not necessarily need to be sheep – the farmer is entitled to shoot that dog as long as it is in the act of worrying.

“Most farmers, unless it is a severe instance of sheep worrying, where they have to shoot a dog, will rather catch it or follow it back to where it has come from. The last thing a farmer wants to do is to have to shoot an animal.”

Laura, a certified dog trainer who has also studied canine behaviour, said she has often picked up dogs that have been caught straying on farmland by farmers.

She said: “The farmers catch them and then call me in. They sometimes have microchips but as in so many instances, the person who had the dog/s micro-chipped assumed that they are registered and traceable, but they are not in a lot of cases.

“The dog/s that have microchips but are not on a register or on an approved database, this means that animal rescuers, vets or myself that scan the dog cannot trace the microchip or the owner’s details.”

She added: “In these cases I let the rescuers know and they put details of the dogs up on their Facebook pages and the owners sometimes come forward. The owners are than told to re-register the chips on a database that can be traced and I check the database within 30 days to make sure it has been done.”

Laura, who is based at Mayo County Council headquarters in Aras an Chontae in Castlebar, said it was vital that dog owners maintained a secure garden for their pets.

She has advised pet owners that an electronic fence to contain a dog in a garden is nothing but a tool and should not be relied on to do so in the absence of the householder as she has picked up many dogs that have electronic collars on.

She explained: “Please make sure you have a secure garden for your dog so that your dog cannot get out of it. If there is a break in a fence, a wall or gate, make sure it is fixed.

“I would describe an electronic fence, used to keep a dog confined, as a tool. It is a tool and like all tools if you use it wrongly, they don’t work, and they will cause damage to your dog if not used properly.

“When you install an electronic fence, the dog has to be trained to it and it takes about six to eight weeks to train a dog to get used to an electronic fence.

“Some dogs will take to it pretty quickly. Others will not, especially ones that have a stubborn streak.

“The effect of the shock from the fence is momentary and they are out of the garden and gone. The problem is they are out through it, but they won’t come back in – like ‘I am not going to have that shock again, so I’ll stay on this side’.

“It is a tool and I only ever recommend you use it when you are at home and that you already have a pretty secure garden.”

Laura warned: “Do not leave your dog unsupervised while depending on the electronic fence to keep them in because you don’t know what will frighten your dog. You have to see it from the dog’s perspective.

“I pick up so many dogs with the electronic shock collar because they have gone out through the fence and they won’t go back in. Generally, they are picked up in the area where they have come from and have not gone too far. But it would be preferable if you had a secure garden or shed to put the dog in while you are away. Leaving them unsupervised with an electronic fence does not work – the wire breaks or the battery runs down, and believe me the dogs know the minute the batteries are gone – then they are gone.

“It is not the solution and it is not 100% effective.”

She added: “If you have a dog, be a responsible owner. Know where your dog is at all times, have a garden that is secure to ensure you dog isn’t going to get out. You must walk the dog and provide proper health care, legally have it micro-chipped, registered and licensed.

“Dogs must at all times wear a collar that bears the contact details of the owner inscribed on it or on a plate, badge or disc. Failure to have identification on a dog can result in an on-the-spot fine issued by me. Failure to pay this fine within a specific period can result in prosecution by your local authority.”

The dog warden can be contacted at (094) 9024444.


  • Connaught Telegraph, 31st January 2019
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