What is Livestock Worrying?

Under the Dog (NI) Order 1983 as amended, it is an offence for any dog to attack or cause injury to a person or any other animal owned by another person or livestock.

Worrying livestock does not mean attacking cattle or sheep etc. If a dog chases livestock in such a way as could reasonably be expected to cause any form of suffering to the animals or financial loss to their owner, it will be considered to have worried livestock.

Livestock includes cattle, horses, donkeys, mules, hinnies, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry*, deer (enclosed on land where usually kept) and while in captivity pheasants, partridges, grouse and quails.
(*poultry means domestic fowls, turkeys, geese, ducks, guinea-fouls, pigeons and peacocks)

An authorized officer may seize a dog without a warrant where a physical examination by a Vet is considered necessary to determine whether or not the dog has worried livestock. However, the dog must be examined no later than 1 – 2 hours from the time of attack/livestock worrying. The dog(s) must be returned to the owner (if identified) and if requested by the owner. A dog will only be impounded if no owner has been traced or if the owner of the dog has requested the dog is impounded for humane destruction.

Attacks on animals cause untold suffering and horrendous injuries, which often result in the animal having to be put down.

In certain circumstances, a Farmer or Landowner has the right to shoot a dog found attacking or worrying livestock, if there are no other reasonable means of ending or preventing the worrying.

If a dog is shot dead, it must be reported to the Council and the PSNI. The Council Dog Warden can then come out and scan the dog for a microchip. It is the responsibility of the Farmer to dispose of that dog.

Many pet dogs will run after animals just for the chase. Any breed, no matter what size, can revert to its primitive, wolf-like instinct. In most sheep worrying cases the dog involved will maim and injure the animal and move onto the next one for the thrill of the chase which can result in a large flock being destroyed.

Not only is the distress and harm to the livestock truly shocking but often the financial implications can be devastating.

To contact Dog Control email dogcontrol@fermanaghomagh.com or animalwelfare@fermanaghomagh.com or call 0300 303 1777.

Useful Tips for Farmers

  1. Be patient and vigilant. There is a good chance the dog involved will return to the same field where the worrying occurred.
  2. Try not to scare the dog off by shouting at it. Instead try to contain the dog in a safe and secure area until the Enforcement Officer becomes available. If this is not possible and the dog escapes, follow the dog to ascertain where it resides. This is particularly important in cases where a dog has no distinctive features and characteristics and could easily be mistaken for another dog of similar breed i.e. golden or black Labradors, black/tan German Shepherd etc. Photograph or video evidence may be useful.
  3. A dog must only be shot when there is no other way of ending the worrying. The dog must be in the field with the livestock present. The farmer must inform the PSNI if a firearm is discharged.
  4. If a dog(s) is witnessed attacking livestock and shot dead, contact the Enforcement Officer so they can come out and scan the dog for a microchip and try to trace the owner.
  5. Written statements can be recorded and it is necessary to have details of date, time, location and description of dog(s) involved where possible.
  6. If a dog is suspected to be involved in worrying the livestock, an examination can be carried out by a Vet, but this is only possible within a short time frame after the attack (no later than 1 – 2 hours from attack).
  7. If there is sufficient evidence  and a public interest, some cases can proceed to court for prosecution. In other circumstances the Council can impose control conditions such as the dog be kept under control (leashed) when in a public place etc.
  8. A dog can only be humanely destroyed if the dog has been impounded for five days and no owner has been traced or identified or at the request of the owner to sign their dog over for destruction. In certain cases that have proceeded to court, a magistrate can order the destruction of a dog where considerable damage has occurred. In most cases, control conditions are favourable and the Council has the authority to impose such conditions without the matter proceeding to court.
  9. Financial loss/compensation is a civil matter but copies of an Enforcement Officer’s report/statements can be provided in order to facilitate this in accordance with following current data protection legislation.
  10. It is useful to have your livestock insured against attacks from dogs.

Important Reminder

Please be advised that if you are a dog owner you must ensure you dog(s) are kept under proper control at all times. Your dog(s) must also be micro chipped and and licensed with Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. Dog licences can be obtained by contacting the address/telephone number below or visiting the relevant section of the webpage. 

Contact Details

All incidents of livestock worrying (even if the dog involved has not been seen) should be reported. You can contact the Enforcement Officer (Dog Control) at Fermanagh and Omagh District Council on:
Telephone: 0300 303 1777

2 Townhall Street,
Co Fermanagh
BT74 7BA
The Grange
Mountjoy Road,
Lisnamallard, Omagh,
Co Tyrone,
BT79 7BL


Download file: WEB FODC Animal Welfare Livestock Worrying A4 Trifold Mar 20

WEB FODC Animal Welfare Livestock Worrying A4 Trifold Mar 20

1st April 2020
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