Farm organization calls for legislation to ban non-working dogs in highlands

A recent survey conducted by INHFA on public access identified dog control as a top concern for landowners, with 40% saying it was a “major issue” for them .

INHFA Vice President Pheilim Molloy said 81% of survey respondents said people access their land regularly, with 67% seeing people access their land on a weekly or daily basis.

When asked about dogs, 83% said recreational users accessing their property had brought dogs.

Sixty-four percent said they asked walkers not to bring dogs, and when asked if this request was granted, 61% of owners indicated how recreational users refused to comply with this request .

According to Mr Molloy, ‘colorful language and aggressive behaviour’ is ‘completely normal from walkers when asked not to bring their dogs, with farmers often telling them in no uncertain terms that their dog would not mind the sheep and mind their own business”.

Mr Molloy said what was even more worrying were the ‘clear threats being made against farmers’.

He said he was aware of an incident in which a farmer challenged a group who had off-leash dogs and was told ‘they would do it again and deal with any locals who tried to stop them”.

With key issues identified in the survey as dog control, insurance and respect for farmers’ property, including the goodwill they provide, Mr Molloy told the Irish Examiner that INHFA was currently drafting a guidance document on public access and would call for a “ban on non-working dogs in our mountain spaces”.

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

“There are a lot more people now and especially since the pandemic there would be a lot more people on the hills and that, but at the same time it does not justify the kind of situation we are facing where farmers are feel threatened. ”

The investigation grew out of phone calls made to the organization by members highlighting issues about hikers and what happened when they confronted those with dogs.

Mr Molloy said the vast majority of INHFA members had “no major difficulty” with people accessing land “as long as there is respect”.

Bette C. Alvarado