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Unleashed dogs 'pose threat to animal welfare'

“Family pets can be turned into predators,” Deputy Andrew Doyle has said, adding there needs to be stronger controls in this area.

THERE NEEDS TO be stronger controls introduced for the supervision of dogs in “upland areas”, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Andrew Doyle said that unleashed dogs in upland areas can pose dangers as “more and more people enjoy walking and rambling” in such areas.

He suggested that the law could be strengthened to protect animal welfare in upland areas as part of the Animal Health and Welfare Bill, which was brought before the Dáil by Minister Simon Coveney last week.

Serious consequences

Deputy Doyle said that the legislation which covers this area is at least 45 years old and needs to be updated.

Doyle added that it is important for people to realise “that there can be serious consequences when you let your dogs out; family pets can be turned into predators”.

The Dog Control Act says you must have control over your animal, and I think there needs to be tighter regulations on dogs in upland areas. ‘Leave no trace’ is the motto of Coillte, our forestry body. This is about much more than not leaving litter behind; it’s about respecting the rural environment and all that inhabit it.

He said that sheep can be particularly vulnerable to attack, and that alternatives to unleashed dogs “need to be explored through collaboration between all the main stakeholders”, including dog owners, farmers, walkers and legislators.

There are plenty of areas where dogs safely can wander without being on a leash, but this certainly does not apply to every open hillside in the country.

He said that the situation has become so extreme that many landowners in the Wicklow uplands “cannot leave their holdings during the summer, particularly at weekends”.

When they confront those in charge of these dogs they often meet hostility or denial of ownership. There are enough locations, including forestry land, where domestic animals can be exercised, within guidelines, and where they would not be a worry to sheep and farm animals.

The deputy suggested that if animal welfare is to cover animals that are subject to predatory behaviour by other animals, domestic or wild, “it should follow that the owner or the person responsible for the predatory animal will be guilty of an offence”.

Animal Health and Welfare Bill

Minister Coveney brought the bill before the house last week, saying that it “will lead to a consolidation and modernisation of much of the primary legislation in this area, some of which is over a hundred years old”.

Under the bill, the owners of all animals are required to provide feed for their animals, to provide adequate and safe housing and to provide veterinary care and protection.

The Bill draws a distinction between animals classed as “protected” – any animal under the ownership of individuals as opposed to animals in a wild state.

Protected animals are accorded greater protection than animals living in the wild as there is an obligation placed on the owner or person in charge to ensure that a protected animal is fed, sheltered and so on. However, all animals are “protected” insofar as cruel acts are forbidden.

Read: Opposition TDs propose laws to ban hare coursing>

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