Farm organisation seeks legislation to ban non-working dogs from upland spaces 

Farmers concerned over walkers refusing to comply with requests not to bring dogs on their land, with some leisure users making 'clear threats against farmers'
Farm organisation seeks legislation to ban non-working dogs from upland spaces 

'Colourful language and aggressive behaviour' is 'quite normal from walkers when asked to not bring their dogs'.

The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) is calling for legislation to ban non-working dogs from farmers' upland spaces.

A recent survey carried out by the INHFA on public access identified dog control as a key concern for landowners, with 40% saying it was a "major issue" for them.

INHFA vice president Pheilim Molloy said 81% of respondents to the survey said they had people accessing their land on a regular basis, with 67% seeing people accessing their land on a weekly or daily basis.

When asked about dogs, 83% indicated that leisure users accessing their property have brought dogs.

Sixty four per cent indicated they had requested walkers not to bring dogs, and when queried on the uptake of this request, 61% of landowners indicated how leisure users refused to comply with this request.

According to Mr Molloy, "colourful language and aggressive behaviour" is "quite normal from walkers when asked to not bring their dogs, with farmers often told in no uncertain terms that their dog would not bother sheep and to mind their own business".

Mr Molloy said what was even more concerning is the "clear threats made against farmers".

He said he was aware of an incident in which a farmer challenged a group who had dogs without leads and was told "that they would do it again and take care of any locals that tried to stop them".

With key issues identified in the survey as dog control, insurance, and respect for farmers’ property including the goodwill they are providing, Mr Molloy told the Irish Examiner that the INHFA was currently drafting a policy paper around public access and will call for a "ban on non-working dogs from our upland spaces".

“It seems to be something that is getting worse,” Mr Molloy said.

“There’s a lot more people now and especially since the pandemic there’d be a lot more people out on the hills and that but at the same time that doesn’t justify the kind of situation we’re facing where farmers are feeling threatened.”

The survey arose out of phone calls being made to the organisation from members, highlighting issues around hillwalkers, and what happened when they confronted those with dogs.

Mr Molloy said the vast majority of the INHFA’s members have “no major difficulty” with people accessing land “as long as there’s respect shown”.

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