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Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Control of Dogs.

Tuesday, 8 February 1966

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 220 No. 7

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[962]55.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if he will introduce legislation to control dogs with a view to protecting sheep owners who suffer serious losses due to the depredations of wandering dogs.

Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. Haughey): Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey Provision in regard to this matter is made in the Dogs Act, 1906, the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act, 1960, and in Orders made thereunder. As I have recently announced, it is my intention, with a view to strengthening the enforcement of the existing legislation, to make a further Order providing for the compulsory wearing by dogs in highways or public places of identification collars bearing the names and addresses of their owners.

The Diseases of Animals Bill, which is at present before the Seanad, makes further provision for dealing with this problem.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange Surely the Minister is aware that dogs are free to roam the countryside. If he reads the papers, he can see that thousands of sheep worth tens of thousands of pounds are being attacked by dogs. This is a huge loss to the small farmers. Does he realise that on 25th May, 1965, he promised that legislation would be introduced before the lambing season? The lambing season is now half through. The Minister might as well tie the tail of my coat on a dog as put a collar on a dog. They should be earmarked. In the farming journal last week, it was stated that sheep are being slaughtered in their hundreds and no protection is being given to the unfortunate owners. You promised on 25th May that legislation would be introduced.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan I did not promise anything.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries promised that legislation would be introduced.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey There is a fair amount of legislation there already. The difficulty is effectively to enforce it. The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) [963] Act, 1960, provides in regard to dogs worrying sheep that fines may be imposed on the owner or the person in charge of a dog. If there is no person in charge the dog may be seized and detained by the Gardaí and destroyed if it is not claimed within seven days. It is also a good defence to an action for damages for shooting a dog if it is proved that the dog was shot while it was worrying livestock. Those provisions are all there under existing legislation.

At the same time, I can improve the position somewhat at this stage by making this order that a dog which is in a public place or highway will have to have an identification tag. This will be a help to owners in certain circumstances to recover damages from the owner of a marauding dog. Unfortunately, under existing legislation any such order must be confined to a highway or a public place. This is not really getting us very far, so in the Diseases of Animals Bill to which I was referring when I gave that reply last May, we are providing that it will now be possible for me to make orders which will be more effective. That legislation has gone through this House and is now on Committee Stage in the Seanad. It is proceeding through the Oireachtas as quickly as I can put it through.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave Leaving aside the question of protection, would the Miniister consider earmarking a certain portion of the dog licence in order to provide a fund to compensate farmers whose sheep are destroyed or injured?

Mr. Carter: Information on Frank Carter Zoom on Frank Carter Would it not be better to increase the dog licence?

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey I certainly will consider that suggestion, although I doubt if any such fund would be adequate. I really think that the ultimate solution to this problem is for the herd owners to be given the greatest possible legal power to protect their flocks, and secondly, to try to assist them so far as we can to secure legal compensation if their flocks are injured or destroyed.

[964]Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave That is all right where the animals can be identified but I am familiar with a recent case in which considerable damage was done and considerable losses were involved. If there were such a compensation fund, something might be available for the owner whose sheep were injured.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey There is also another provision whereby the local authorities are able to make orders completely controlling the movement, if you like, of dogs during the hours of darkness, but I do not think that any local authority have so far been willing to exercise their powers under that particular statutory provision.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton Zoom on Mark A. Clinton In view of the fact that this menace has become so serious that many farmers in the Dublin region have decided to get out of sheep altogether, and in view of the fact that legislation has obviously failed to overcome this, would the Minister take a more serious look at this than just insisting on collars being provided? I do not think that is the solution either.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey This is only a further step. There is a provision in the 1960 Act under which farmers are given very wide powers to protect their flocks by shooting a dog or seizing it if it is worrying their sheep. Of course the big difficulty about that is that this damage usually occurs at nighttime and it is obviously impossible for farmers to mount an all-night watch over their flocks. This is a very difficult problem and I know it is a very serious worry to a great number of sheep farmers. These are some of the steps which we are taking to try to improve the position of the sheep farmers, and if any others occur to us we will not hesitate to take them too.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange Surely the Minister realises that until the dogs can be definitely identified it will not be possible to put an end to this menace. Would the Minister not introduce legislation providing that dogs must be eartagged or ear-tattooed? A dog's collar can be taken off and I do not think we will be able to get the owners that way.

[965]Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey I do not think that would be a very practical thing to do.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange Why?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan Question No. 56.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey It is difficult to explain, but I do not think it would be practicable.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange It can be done in the case of a greyhound for 2/6.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey There is the possibility of forgery.


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