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Galway’s Sheep Massacre: Dreaded Return of Killer Dogs Leaves Farmers in Fear

Co. Galway Sheep Farmer Loses 38 Ewes and Lambs in Two Dog Attacks in 24 Hours, Says Tranquility of Farming Life Lost

A sheep farmer in Co. Galway has expressed his dismay after two separate dog attacks in 24 hours resulted in the loss of 38 ewes and lambs. Christopher Rock, who farms in the Peterswell area of south Co. Galway, said that the tranquility and relaxation of his farming life has been lost. On Monday morning, May 8th, he checked his sheep and found everything to be fine. However, when he returned to his house in the afternoon he noticed something was amiss. The sheep had been attacked by dogs, resulting in the death of four ewes and two lambs. The Gardaí were called and the sheep were moved to another field. However, in the three-hour period that Christopher decided to get some sleep, the dogs returned and killed another 11 ewes and 11 lambs. In total, 38 sheep were killed across the two attacks, resulting in a monetary loss of at least €5,000.

Christopher, who is 35, took over the farm in 2015 after the death of his father. This year, he had crossed Blackfaces with Texels, and was very happy with the resulting lambs. He had some 98 ewes before the attack, saying: “It’s not a huge farm”. He added that he loves farming and the tranquility it brings. However, the recent dog attacks have left him unsure about the future of his farm. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, because I’m at my wit’s end. I can’t relax, I can’t go anywhere or do anything. It happened in the day and it happened at night. You’re totally exposed,” he said. “You’re looking at an animal that you’re trying to give a good life to and you don’t know whether it’s going to meet its doom in 10 minutes, in an hour, in a week.”

The situation has left Christopher feeling vulnerable and exposed. He has no gun and is relying on his neighbours to help him if he sees something suspicious. He said: “If someone slipped a piece of paper into the letterbox, and it was anonymous, and it said ‘it was our dog and we’ve put it down’, I’d be happy. It’s shocking, because it’s hard enough as it is as a standalone event if I had closure on it, but it’s not over for me now, because I’m up every night and the minute you hear a bit of noise you’re gone out.”

The Gardaí have confirmed that they are making enquiries into the incident. However, Christopher is not confident that the dogs will be found. “All people have to do is say the dog was at home, or that they have no dog. You’re relying on someone to be decent,” he said. “It’s terrible because the dogs haven’t been caught, and you’re just waiting for them. They’ll be back again.”

Dog attacks on sheep have become a major problem in Ireland in recent years. According to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), there were over 2,000 dog attacks on sheep in 2016, resulting in the death of 4,000 sheep and costing farmers €1.4m. The IFA has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the issue, urging dog owners to keep their pets under control at all times. The campaign includes a poster featuring a sheep with the message “Your dog’s natural instinct is to chase, to attack and to kill. Keep it on a lead, or face the consequences”.

The IFA has also called for tougher penalties for dog owners whose pets attack sheep. Currently, the maximum penalty is a fine of €600. However, the IFA is calling for this to be increased to €5,000, along with the possibility of a prison sentence. The organisation has also called for a database of DNA samples to be created, which would allow dogs that have attacked sheep to be identified.

In the meantime, farmers like Christopher are left to deal with the aftermath of dog attacks on their sheep. Speaking to Agriland, he said: “I’ve heard of it and I’ve read of it, and I’d often say to my wife wouldn’t you just hate it, imagine all the poor creatures. And then to go and see that myself. You wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

Categories: Agriculture