Skip to main content
Normal View

Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 18 May 1960

Vol. 52 No. 11

Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Bill, 1960—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This Bill has been introduced in response to many requests over the past number of years to successive Ministers for Agriculture to provide greater protection to livestock owners against marauding dogs. Complaints of serious damage to livestock, especially to sheep and lambs, have been numerous and various suggestions have been made for coping with the problem. The existing statute law is not good enough to deal with it and the present Bill is an attempt to give protection to stock-owners and at the same time to be be fair to dog owners who keep their dogs under control.

The chief present statute to deal with dogs is the Dogs Act, 1906. This Act gives local authorities power to make regulations requiring that dogs be kept under control between sunset and sunrise, and most local authorities have made such regulations. The Act also provides that where a dog is proved to have attacked cattle or sheep it can be dealt with as a dangerous dog under the Dogs Act, 1871, that is, an Order can be made by the District Court directing the owner to have the dog kept under proper control or destroyed. Neither of these provisions is of much use in dealing with ownerless or stray dogs which are the types of dog which mainly cause damage to livestock.

Under the Dogs Act, 1906, the owner of a dog is liable in damages for injury done to livestock but of course the owner of the dog must be identified before an action for damages can be brought and, even if he is identified, he may not have the means to pay damages. It is of interest to note that the law as set out in the Dogs Act, 1906, as regards the liability of owners for damage done by their dogs to livestock is different from the usual law as regards damage by dogs in that it is not necessary for the person claiming the damages to show that the dog had a vicious propensity.

The present Bill has three main provisions. First, it makes it an offence punishable by a fine of £20 for a first offence and a fine of £50 for a second offence in respect of the same dog for the owner or person in charge of a dog if the dog worries livestock. The section provides that it shall be a good defence to prove that reasonable care was taken to prevent the worrying of the livestock.

Secondly, the Bill enables dogs found worrying livestock on agricultural land to be seized, detained and subsequently destroyed if not claimed.

Thirdly, the Bill provides that it will be a good defence in an action for damages for the shooting of a dog if it is proved that the dog was shot when worrying livestock lawfully on the land. The Bill contains a number of safeguards so as to prevent dogs being shot recklessly or spitefully. It does not deprive the stock owner of his right to sue the dog owner for damages for loss to his stock.

The Bill has been prepared in response to many demands from the farming community and I recommend it to the House.

I welcome this Bill. The only thing I can say is that I do not think it goes far enough yet. In the past, we have seen dogs attacking sheep. These dogs cannot be shot or detained during that period. It is very hard on the owners of flocks of sheep especially to find that it is very difficult to trace the dogs which have attacked sheep. It is also very hard to detain them.

The sheep industry in this country is so important that I think the Minister should go somewhat further in this Bill. In the past, owners of dogs that were seen attacking sheep have taken the owners of the flocks of sheep to court and got damages. This Bill will be welcomed by the agricultural community. I think it is a step in the right direction but I still say that it could go further.

Like the previous speaker, I must say that I was extremely disappointed that the Bill did not go further but at the same time, I find it very difficult to suggest any improvements. It is very difficult for the owners of sheep, even if they find a dog worrying those sheep, to seize that dog or even identify it and follow it. I know of cases where men on horseback followed the dogs and lost them. The worrying of sheep is probably not so prevalent in the west of Ireland where some dogs are kept. Sheep know the dogs and that is important. Sheep who never see a dog get very frightened if dogs worry them. If the sheep are used to being collected off the mountains by dogs, they are not frightened of them. It is in counties like Cavan that I have heard of the greatest damage being done by dogs.

There are certain suggestions I should like to make to the Minister to try to guard against the worrying of sheep by dogs. Once dogs get the taste of sheep and once they start worrying the sheep, they keep on, until eventually they have to be destroyed. One suggestion I make is that in those areas where there have been continued attacks on sheep, the Guards should be allowed to declare that area, be it a townland or a number of townlands, a special area for the protection of sheep for a month or two. All dogs in that area should be actually confined during the period of darkness and any dog found in that area should be shot, especially if found wandering through the fields. Some provision of that kind is the only thing that will stop this. I know farmers—neighbours of my own—who have lost £200 worth of sheep in one year. That is a common occurrence in Cavan for the past number of years where small farmers keep a few sheep.

I do not think it would be a very difficult regulation to enforce. It is impossible for the Guards to seize dogs and nearly impossible for owners of flocks to seize them, but if continual sheep worrying were going on in a certain area, some regulation could be made that all dogs in townlands must be kept under control at night. Something like that is the only way to make people control their dogs.

I think it is relevant to mention that there was one insurance company in Cavan which insured flocks but which ceased to insure because of the terrific damage done to flocks. They ceased accepting any new clients and refused to accept them under any conditions. Another possibility which might be considered is that if the owner of the flock believes that a certain dog has attacked the sheep but cannot actually prove it, the Guards might be empowered to seize that dog and keep it under veterinary attention in order that its droppings could be examined for wool. It might not be absolute proof but at least it would go a certain way to prove that that dog had been worrying the sheep because usually wool is indigestible. I have heard of a case—I think it was in the north of Ireland—where the owner of a dog was convicted by reason of that proof. Those are the chief suggestions which I should like to make and I think that the Minister should try to go further in this Bill than he has.

In these days, when the demand is for increased production from the land, if the economy is to be improved, as other speakers have indicated, legislation such as this which affects the farming community and which is for the protection of their livestock is to be welcomed. Despite the amount of land that has been acquired in recent years for afforestation, I believe that the sheep population is bigger to-day than it has been for many years. The quality of the sheep has improved very much in my county and the number has also increased. For that reason, this Bill is a good Bill and one that should improve the protection of sheep.

I should like to suggest to the Minister that on Committee Stage, Section 2 might be improved because the section suggests that if the dog belongs to the occupier of the land, then there is no infringement of the law. The Minister is well aware, however, that in many counties, in the west of Ireland particularly, a great amount of land is held in common. There may be up to 20 or 30 owners of the commonage and that is where the sheep graze during the summer months. It could be suggested, therefore, that an occupier of a common, if he was also the owner of the dog might not commit an offence under this section and I should like the Minister to consider improving that section in that respect.

As I have already suggested, I do not think the statistical returns in connection with sheep and cattle are accurate, because, owing to the investigation of means for old age pensions, medical cards and unemployment assistance, the owners of livestock are not anxious to disclose the full amount of livestock which they own. The Minister may be aware that there was some difficulty in connection with the enforcement of the bovine tuberculosis regulations because of the fact that owners were not always particularly anxious to show the number of livestock they had. It was stated one time by an inspector of taxes across the water that even though he understood that the population of Ireland was about 4 million, from his statistics, the population must be about 10 million because of the number of the dependants claimed by people working in England. Similarly, I feel that the returns made by the Statistics Office may not be as accurate as they should be. At any rate, the Bill is a considerable improvement on previous legislation in connection with protection of livestock and I, in common with other speakers, welcome it.

Senator Cole has referred to a fact which seems to be related to a question which I wanted to ask. He mentioned that where sheep flocks were not accustomed to dogs, they might very well give every appearance of being worried if a dog suddenly walked through the field. Are we happy just to say in Section 2, for instance, "where a dog worries livestock"? Have we no definition of "worrying"? Is that left entirely to the owner of livestock to assess? Can he say "My flock was worried; I will kill your dog"? In order to have this Bill legitimately applied, what kind of definition did the Minister have in mind?

The second point is that the Minister mentioned that there were various safeguards against using the powers of the Bill recklessly and spitefully. I think he is justified in saying that because under Section 4 a variety of safeguards are inserted. For instance, the dog can be penalised or possibly shot only for worrying livestock on agricultural land which is a very important point because those of us who know the more remote parts of the country realise that livestock are more frequently to be found on the roads than on agricultural land. Consequently, this Bill would not apply unless the dog happened inadvertently to chase the sheep into a field off the road where it would normally have its being.

We have to try to hold a balance here and I think the situation contains a certain amount of irony as between the sheep owner and the dog owner. The irony arises from the fact that they are probably the same people, both belong to the farming community. It is not some city person who comes to the country, but nine times out of ten, the dogs concerned are owned by some section of the farming community. They may not be owned by sheep-owning farmers but they come from the same section of the community.

I suggest that a good deal of this trouble is caused by a lack of a sense of responsibility in some sections of the farming community. The responsibility of the livestock owner is to keep his stock off the roads. Most of them do not seem to worry about that at all. The responsibility of the dog owner is to see that the young dogs are trained. Neglect of those requirements can, as Senator Cole said, have most devastating effects.

I should like to appeal—and in most parts of the country this sort of appeal ought to be effective—for more co-operation between people who have trouble with dogs and the people who have dogs over which they have little or no control, never bothering to give the dog any kind of training or to keep it in at particularly dangerous periods for the sheep.

I am a little disturbed about paragraph (d) of Section 4 which states part of what shall constitute a good defence if a defendant is having damages sought against him for the shooting of a dog. Paragraph (d) says that if somebody shoots a dog, it shall be a good defence if the defendant proves that the owner of the dog was, when the dog was shot, not known to the defendant.

Apart from the fact that that might be ambiguous—I can see a lawyer might twist two meanings out of that, that the owner was not known to the defendant—it also seems a little arbitrary to say that if you do not know the owner, if you do not recognise the dog as belonging to somebody you know, you may shoot it, and provided you tell the Civic Guards within 48 hours, under paragraph (e), that will be all right and will constitute a good defence.

I can sympathise with those Senators who say more powers should be given and these powers are necessary, but I am not quite happy that that defence: "I did not know whose dog it was when I shot it" is a very good defence to insert in the Bill, because it is so easy to say: "I shot the dog and I did not realise until after I had shot it whose dog it was."

As I anticipated, this Bill caused considerable trouble to Senator Sheehy Skeffington. Senator Sheehy Skeffington always affects to be on the side of the underdog.

Is Senator O'Quigley on the side of the sheep?

On this occasion, the underdog happens to be, in the main, sheep and lambs and therefore he could not quite make up his mind whether he would be on the side of the real underdog or the dog, and he is quite unhappy about it.

It is of interest to note in relation to a couple of motions we had here recently that the law of this country favours animals to a greater extent than it does human beings. If I am attacked and bitten by a dog, I have to prove, as the Minister has said, that the dog had no vicious propensities or what we call in law scienter, but under the 1906 Act and under this Act, you have only to establish that if a dog worried animals and has killed your animals, and even though it was a first offence, you are entitled to damages from the owner of the dog. It is a first offence in the case of animals, whereas you have to prove it was a second offence in the case of a human being, which is a fair indication of our attitude in this country towards the protection of animals of all kinds.

The biting of Senator O'Quigley might constitute a definite danger to the dog.

I do not want to muzzle the Senator. I do suggest to the Minister that when considering this Bill we ought not to take all stages of it—although I know the Minister would be anxious to get them— because a number of suggestions have been made that might be put down by way of amendments which the Minister might consider. Frankly, I was disappointed with this Bill when I read it because I thought it would provide some more effective way of dealing with marauding dogs. Admittedly, the problem is extremely difficult. The Bill provides a right to the owner of livestock to shoot a dog when he finds it worrying his livestock. That gives some protection for livestock. The measure also provides that certain things are offences but I would support the suggestion made by Senator Cole that during the lambing season, when apparently most damage is done by dogs, there should be an obligation in rural areas on all owners of dogs to keep their dogs in at night time.

In many cases untold damage has been done to sheep and lambs because of the attacks of dogs at night time. If, for the closed season, beginning some time in December and ending around the end of March, dogs were kept in at night, as, in any event, they should be, we would go a good distance towards protecting livestock or protecting the sheep, which I think are the chief sufferers from marauding dogs during the hours of darkness.

There is only one other point that arises on the Bill—why it was not considered necessary to include other animals besides cattle, sheep and horses. Probably cattle do not suffer so much from dogs or perhaps they have better powers of resisting them. I am wondering whether the definition of livestock is sufficiently comprehensive, whether, for instance, "horses" includes donkeys. The number of donkeys in the country is declining but there is many a small farmer in the west of Ireland who, if his donkey were to be set upon by dogs, would feel as much aggrieved and would probably suffer as much as a more wealthy owner whose horse had been set upon by dogs. Perhaps the Minister would indicate why this definition has been confined merely to the types of animals mentioned.

Apart from that, this measure will be greatly welcomed by the farming community. I hope it will be effective but I do not think it will be as effective as the necessities of the situation demand.

I rise to support the Bill but, like Senator O'Sullivan, I do not think the Bill goes far enough. I was rather amused by Senator Sheehy Skeffington's speech. We all know that it is largely during the lambing season that protection is needed. I remember a few years ago down in Ennis people came to the county council imploring us to put legislation into operation controlling dogs between six in the evening and sunrise. We had to put that into force. It was very unpopular with some people. The real cause of the trouble is that in various parts of the country people have three or four dogs, mongrels and different breeds of dogs, which are absolutely starving. That is particularly true around towns and villages, not so much in the country. As a rule, the farming community feed their dogs pretty well. A man who has any love at all for a dog will see that it is as well treated as any other animal. But we know quite well that in rural areas and around villages, half those dogs are half starved and go around in packs, particularly in the lambing season. I was speaking to several farmers who go in for ewes on a very large scale. They told me that since their sheep were attacked and badly torn by dogs and the lambs killed, they never had the same love for them afterwards. It was a kind of turning point. It is not a superstition but they seemed to have had bad luck with the ewes afterwards. Another way of dealing with the problem—except that people do not like to do it—is to put a notice on the lands of the laying of poison.

With regard to the detection of does, one hears very funny stories even from very intelligent people about how far does travel. They go nine or 10 miles perhaps when they do damage. Then they go and wash their face and dry themselves in the grass. I know a man who was going to the stores with two pigs and midway between the place I live, Broadford, and Limerick, he met two dogs belonging to a farmer he knew.

A farmer?

Yes, a farmer. He proceeded to Limerick and left his pigs and spent the day there. He went to the farmer later to have the dogs destroyed for he had not any doubt in the world about what the dogs had been doing—they were covered with blood—and the man did have them destroyed.

The only doubt is whether the Bill is strong enough. Our sympathy should go out to the farmer. In the lambing season, usually a very cold season of the year, March or April, these people are out at night with the lantern after the ewes and the lambs. They are trying to do all they possibly can for them to keep them alive and that is enough without having dogs coming killing the lambs and driving the sheep mad. As a farmer myself who knows everything about it, I have not the smallest doubt that the Bill is necessary and, like Senator O'Sullivan, I think its powers may not be strong enough.

I should like to add my voice to those of Senators who have welcomed the Bill. We have not had legislation to assist us in dealing with stray dogs since 1906. I do know that county councils have had power to make an order to compel owners to keep the dogs in at night. I had experience of such an order being made by a county council but I could not see any effective means by which the county council could enforce the order. You would want hundreds of Guards working at night to enforce an order like that. It is absolutely ineffective. This Bill will go part of the way and it is very welcome as we have been waiting for something in that line for so many years.

Much has been said about justice to dog owners. The Minister is anxious to give them justice and Senators are anxious that dogs should not be shot for any other reason than that they are doing harm, but, in my opinion, if a dog is any way valuable or an owner thinks much of his dog, the dog will be kept under control. If an owner has any regard for a dog, either because he is a good servant or because he is of value as a greyhound or a sports dog, then the owner will ensure that he is under control and in at night. If he is missing, the owner will be perturbed.

The dog enemies of livestock and sheep are the stray dogs and unfortunately we have many hundreds of them. It is hard to assess the amount of damage done annually by stray dogs in the lambing season alone and mind you, when killer dogs go to work, they do not confine their activities to the lambing season for I have known them to pull down a very big strong sheep. They do damage, too, to livestock, to milch cows and in-calf cattle. Where you have stray dogs chasing the cattle all night, the farmer cannot stay up to watch and try to identify the dog. It would be impossible for a man to identify a dog at night anyway, especially a stray dog. This Bill gives a good defence to a farmer who shoots a stray dog and if a man who has a valuable dog does not keep him under control, he will have to take the risk, too, if his dog is doing harm.

I think the amount of damage done among cattle is nearly as great as the damage done to sheep, especially on the borders of villages, towns and cities where there are so many of those stray animals. Senator Brady mentioned a case of a farmer's dogs doing damage. It is quite true that they do occasionally, but in all my life I have not known a farmer who heard or suspected that his dog was damaging cattle or sheep who did not kill the dog himself. It is a tradition in farming not to keep a killer dog or one which does damage. The farmer will see to it himself that the dog is killed.

There are too many safeguards in the Bill for the dogs, for stray dogs, at any rate. Senator O'Quigley mentioned the other Bill under which a dog is entitled to his first bite and you have to prove that he has bitten already before the owner can be made to pay compensation, but in this case you could not stay up all night to ensure that the dog which kills a sheep tonight is the same dog as killed a sheep last night. The Bill is very welcome but I would like it to go further, if possible. People say they are worried about the injustice to dogs but there is no need, because the man who has a valuable dog will mind him.

I think the Bill is a step in the right direction but it has not gone far enough. However, the Minister has shown his good intentions. There is a little bit of leniency towards the dogs but at the same time, I think he means well towards the sheep owners and perhaps he will come back later and produce a better Bill. I have practical experience of dogs worrying sheep and I am well aware of the anxiety and loss which result.

It generally happens at lambing time when the sheep are not able to run away from the dogs and very considerable damage is done. We read very often in the papers about such things happening but I suggest that only one out of every ten cases gets into the papers. I knew a man who had 37 pure-bred ewes and 35 were destroyed in one night. Senator Cole referred to the western counties as if much damage was not done there, but we read in the papers that the pulpits of Mayo were used to ask the people to restrain their dogs and keep them tied up at night, owing to the amount of damage done to sheep.

Section 3 of the Bill provides that:

a member of the Garda Síochána may seize the dog, and thereupon the provisions of Sections 3 and 9 of the Dogs Act, 1906, in relation to seized stray dogs shall apply.

The trouble is that the Garda is generally asleep at the time when the dog is attacking the sheep, and the owner is also asleep. The amount of worrying of sheep done in the daylight is very small. It is done at night and it is difficult to pin down the dog or dogs which did it. They sometimes go in droves, and when they are pinned down, the owners say they do not belong to them; that they have never seen them; that they are strays who have strayed in.

That brings me to another point. Why are not more dogs licensed? Why are not all dogs licensed? In old days when we had another country governing us, all the dogs were licensed, but it is not so now. I shall tell a story of what happened in my district. A new and very active Garda came into the district and the first thing he started to do was to find out what dogs were licensed. The first court day after he arrived in the parish he had ten or 12 people in court. They were fined. They were sheep owners and they said: "Why do you not see about the other dogs? No dog in the parish is licensed." He did, and he had another batch in court the next court day. He was getting on fairly well but nobody in the parish would speak to him.

The Garda are supposed to see that the dogs are licensed. Did the people not talk to him?

He had to apply for a transfer right away. I suggest to the Minister that he might find out what proportion of dogs are licensed. I suppose that may be an explanation of why they are not licensed. It is the hungry dogs which do the harm, usually, and the stray dogs. An amount of stray dogs turn up and where they come from, I do not know, but it is the stray dogs which do the harm.

This debate has seemed to be a debate between the dog lovers and the sheep owners. I think the sheep owners have won, more or less, by 10 to one, I should say. I wish the Minister good luck and I urge him to go further ahead and to bring some comfort to the sheep owners. People living near towns and villages have given up keeping sheep owing to the ravages of these dogs. Even in more out-of-the-way places, there have been many raids. I have never heard of a raid on a public road. It is generally in the fields they raid. However, I am in favour of the Bill and I should like to see greater safeguards in it for the sheep owners.

Tá spéis agam san mBille seo agus traoslaím don Rialtas a leithéid a thabhairt isteach, bíodh gur mall féin an teacht é. Is eol dom óm aithne féin agus ó chaidreamh mo chomharsan cuid mhaith mar gheall ar an díobháil a dheineann madraí do chaoirigh agus uain agus, fós, do ainmithe móra agus do bhuaibh.

Sé m'colas-sa ar an gcleas san ag madraí nach madraí aonair de ghná a dheineann an t-olc ach go dtagann siad le chéile ina scataí agus an-mhinic treoir agus ceannas ag an madra is oilte díobh ar an gcuid eile. Gluaiseann siad fé dhorcadas na hoíche agus go mór mhór le linn gealaí.

Agus pé cúis fé ndeara é ionnsaíonn siad caoirigh nó uain agus dar leat go minic gur le fonn sugartha agus caitheamh aimsire é ach díolann na caoirigh agus na huain as. Ritheann siad óna madraí. Ritheann na madraí ina ndiaidh. Beireann siad ar na caoirigh agus téann siad ceangailte ionta, go mór mór timpeall na scórnaí.

Leagann siad iad agus stróchann siad an-mhinic an muineál asta. Téann cuid des na conairtí níos faide leis an scéal agus dob eol dom caoirigh bheith marbh tar éis éachta na hoíche. Tugann siad an-íde do ainmithe agus beithigh. Stróchann siad iad agus fágann siad marc ortha agus an rud is measa scannraíonn siad iad agus na caoirigh ná maraítear ní fearrde iad an scannradh sin an fhaid a mhaireann siad.

Is deacair na madraí díobhálacha sin d'aithint. Bíonn cuid acu—na marafóirí—an-ghlic. Is eol dom uair amháin madra breág ag feirmeoir. Bhíodh caoirigh dhá milleadh agus dhá lot sa cheantar. Bhí an feirmeoir seo lán-chinnte ná raibh a mhadra féin ciontach in aon chuid den dhíobháil sin. Níor chreid sé daoine go raibh amhras acu nach mar sin a bhí an cháil tuillte ag an madra a bhí aige.

Tar éis oíche a thabhairt ag fiach agus ag milleadh caorach, thagadh an madra sin i dtreo a thigh féin. Théigeadh sé go sruthán in aice an tí. Thomadh sé é féin san uisce chun an fhuil a bhaint de. Thiormaíodh sé é féin agus dheineadh sé é féin a umlasc chun a chuid gruaige a thiormú agus ar uairibh luigheadh sé faoin ngréin chun rian an níocháin féin a cheilt. Sa deireadh rug an máistir air dhá nighe féin agus b'shin deireadh leis an madra sin.

Foghlamaíonn madraí an gliocas sin óna chéile. Múineann madra amháin an t-eolas don chuid eile agus bíonn an gliocas ann chun an drochbheart a cheilt.

Fuair Seanadóirí eile locht ar an mBille toisc ná deachaigh sé fada go leor nó feiliminte go leor chun an scéal a leigheas. Is dóigh liomsa leis go dteastódh níos mó de ghriosadh nó de thionchar dlí chun a chur in úil do dhaoine a bhfuil madraí acu gur ceart dóibh na h-ainmithe seo a choinneáil istigh san oíche agus gan caoi a thabhairt dóibh in uaigneas na ndúichí agus na hoíche droch-bhéasa d'fhoghlaim ó dhroch-chuideachtan comharsan. Dá dtiocfadh leis an Rialtas tionchar dlí a chur i bhfeidhm ar an bpobal ionnas go dtabharfaí aire níos mó do mhadraí na tuaithe a choimheád istigh fé smacht san oíche, is dóigh liom go raghadh sin i bhfad chun an scéal a leigheas.

Aon mhadra a bhíonn ag imeacht ar fán scaoilte le linn na hoíche ag taisteal tré páirceanna agus bóithre, ní dóigh liom gur madra fóhta é sin agus is mór mar do bheadh amhras droch-ghníomhartha agam air. Ní rud nádúrtha é madra bheith ag imeacht leis féin i lár na hoíche gan fear nó daoine in éineacht leis. Ní dóigh liom gur ceart do dhaoine cead a thabhairt dá gcuid gadhar na hoícheanta a chaitheamh mar sin.

Having heard some of the speeches here today, I begin to wonder if I was born in the country. We heard country people contradict one another on what happens in regard to the worrying of sheep. I was about to say in Irish that I should love to be able so eloquently to put the facts as they were put by Senator O Siochfhradha and Senator J.L. O'Sullivan.

I do not believe a hungry dog ever worried a sheep. What Senator Ó Siochfhradha said about the rogue dog training other dogs is true. They do it for amusement and at night when everybody is asleep. I cannot see any practical good in this Bill. The main thing is that dogs should be controlled. The only thing to do is to tie them up at night in districts where there are sheep and other animals. Naturally, a dog in a farmer's house or on a farmer's premises need not be tied indoors. If there are strangers about, he will still be a watchdog.

The proper system of control is to have dogs restrained in these districts at night. I do not believe that town dogs or dogs near the towns do the damage. It is just that there is a rogue dog in the vicinity. He will deceive his owner and the neighbours and he does all the things that have so eloquently been described by Senator Ó Siochfhradha. Knowing he is guilty of offences against the community, the community being the people as well as the sheep, the dog conceals evidence of the damage he does.

It has struck me as peculiar that there is nothing positive in the Bill but if you are prosecuted for shooting a dog, you are told what defence you can put up. There is nothing in the Bill providing: "If you see a dog worrying your sheep, you can shoot him." Senator Sheehy Skeffington was worried about the definition of "worrying livestock". Most of us know that a definition is not necessary for that. You will know what "worrying livestock" is when you see a dog doing it. It is not done for food or to kill the animal or because the dog is hungry. As a veterinary officer, I have had to examine 10 or 15 sheep, some alive and some dead, that had been worried by dogs. None of them had been eaten. Even when the lamb is killed, it is not eaten and therefore it is not a question of hunger.

Senator Ó Siochfhradha pointed out that rogue dogs train other dogs and that they travel in companies. I do not see very much good in the Bill. My impression is that the only satisfactory way of controlling the dogs in any period of danger is to have them restrained and kept tied up at night. It has to be done. It is not a great hardship on the dog owner. If, at the lambing season, there is a danger, I think most farmers would be glad enough to do that.

I welcome this Bill. I do not know if it will go far enough to meet the wishes of the farming community. I ask myself whether the Bill was intended for the benefit of the livestock owner or of the dog owner. There have been very fine contributions to this debate. I was reared on a farm and I have a fair amount of experience of dogs and sheep. I do not believe that one per cent. of the dogs go out for the actual killing of sheep. They start off in a playful way to worry a sheep which then gets excited. I think Senator Brady said that people feel that once sheep are worried by dogs, they never seem to have any luck with them. It is an accepted fact, which I think Senator Ó Donnabháin can confirm, that once sheep are worried unduly, they are completely finished.

I welcome the Bill. In any future legislation, the Minister should come down on the side of the sheep-owner and disregard the dog-owner.

The discussion was lengthy but interesting. If Senators feel they could improve on the measure by way of amendment on Committee Stage, I shall have no objection to their doing so. I do not think one will get very far when one comes to analyse the measure very closely. I listened attentively to all suggestions.

I am a layman but I have some knowledge of this problem, in a practical sense, as have other Senators. I confess that when I saw this Bill I was disappointed. Then I asked myself: "Why were a number of my predecessors hesitant about approaching this problem and trying to strengthen the law in regard to it?" I suppose it was because it was difficult to strengthen the law to give the owner of the stock additional protection and at the same time, not to overdo it.

I might say that all my sympathy is with the stockowner. For example, I cannot see how Senator Cole's suggestion, which was repeated by other Senators, could be operated because the power was already there for local bodies. I do not know in how many counties it was done but in my county, dog owners were obliged to keep their animals under control from a certain time in the evening until a certain time in the morning, but who is to enforce that? What further strengthening can we provide in the law which will enable these orders to be enforced?

Even if it were possible, say, to select some smaller area within a county, what would one achieve by doing that in the sense that the dogs doing the damage within that area might come from miles outside the area? To tell the truth—I think it was Senator Ó Donnabháin made the criticism—the way in which Section 4 is put is not very convincing to the lay mind. I think it will be found that Section 4, which is in fact, the effective section, gives to the sheep owner the only protection this Bill provides. I suppose it would satisfy Senator Ó Donnabháin and myself better if it said that the owners of the sheep should go out and shoot any dog they meet on the land. It would be more convincing and more satisfying to us if the language used were somewhat along that line. It is put in a legal way and I have no doubt that it has, in fact, the same effect.

That is the section which provides, as far as I can see, the sort of protection that I personally wanted to provide for the stockowner. There are some safeguards. One of the safeguards mentioned in Section 4 was one that, perhaps, could effect an improvement. I think I mentioned it in the Dáil and there was no apparent hostility to it. In fact, I threw out the suggestion that if there was any desire to remove this protective provision for the dog owners, I would be agreeable to take that course. I do not think that, even if we were to remove it, the Bill would be strengthened to any great extent from the stockowners' point of view. I can think of nothing else you could do. You cannot just go out wholesale and say: "We shall shoot every dog we meet."

Take the case of a dog on the bounds of a neighbouring farm where he has killed or worried sheep on the farm and goes outside. Under this he is safe. You cannot shoot him.

I do not know. What I was trying to provide for was this sort of situation. I experienced this myself. You actually find a dog worrying sheep and you start off after him. He just goes at a speed that tempts you to continue on, saying:

"Well, this fellow is not going to get away from me." You keep on walking and the dog keeps fooling you along and finally you lose the battle, the dog and everything else. It is not complete protection. It would be a source of great satisfaction to me if I found myself in that position that I had a gun in my hand and was in a position to relieve the countryside of that animal. Having enabled the herd-owner to take action and protect himself from the possibility of having a claim against him for damages for having killed the dog, I do not see how you can go much further.

That was my point—if the dog is not shot when it is worrying the sheep. If we had a clause inserted "had worried or after worrying," it might cover it.

If you do not shoot the dog when you find him worrying the sheep, then he will disappear and what can you do about it? If the dog who is worrying your sheep is a travelling animal and you cannot get near enough to shoot him there and then, when will you do it?

That is what I say.

The intention there was that if the stockowner came within reach of the dog which was worrying his stock, he could shoot him, but if he did not shoot him then, how can you provide that he will know the dog in a month? You cannot provide for a case such as this, that a month after such an incident I see a dog and say to myself: "I have a kind of notion that that is the dog that was worrying my sheep" and I just take a shot at him.

I would welcome any effort on the part of the Seanad to strengthen this measure. I think Senator Brady mentioned the damage done by dogs in towns and in villages. I believe they are not always the offenders, but, in the main, they are. I was asked a question about the number of dogs in respect of which licences had been taken out. You cannot know what percentage of dogs are licensed because nobody knows the number of dogs in the country. It is a matter in which I should be interested but not having the responsibility, and not wanting the responsibility of the enforcement of that law, I can do nothing about it.

I certainly think that if it were a case that people in towns and villages just reared dogs and let them ramble around, perhaps in most cases not having licences for them, it would be a rather serious matter and those who are responsible could take very helpful action to ease that situation. I should be glad if they would take it, that is, if it is not being done. I have, of course, an idea of the number of dogs which have been licensed down the years but that does not prove anything, in the sense that I do not know the total number of dogs in the country.

As the Senators are anxious to come back to this subject again, I am sure they will be thinking about it and we shall see what type of amendments they will bring in. Therefore, I need not say anything more on this subject, except to assure the House, lest there be any feeling that I have any substantial leaning towards the dog owners—I keep dogs myself and like them, as does everybody else—that the weight of my reasoning and sympathy must be, of course, with the stockowners.

I can think of nothing that is so aggravating, that is not only a matter of serious loss to an owner but guaranteed to outrage him, than to find his sheep huddled into some corner of a field with half a dozen of them stuck on the ditches and the briers, some of them torn and some of them dead. As Senator Brady mentioned, one feels that it is some sort of unlucky omen and while I suppose there is nothing in that sort of thing, one more or less expects that nothing is likely to go well for one in the sheep world for quite a time. If the Seanad can do better in this Bill than I have done, nobody will be more pleased than I.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for next sitting day.
Business suspended at 6.20 p.m. and resumed at 7.30 p.m.