Despite restrictions on walking being in place due to the Covid-19 outbreak and people curtailed to walking within 2km of their homes, we should also remember that this is also lambing season. For walkers with dogs, this is particularly important. Dog owners are fully responsible for the control of their dogs. Where a walking route crosses an area occupied by sheep, issues arise yearly which can cause problems for livestock, farmers, and, by extension, the walking community.
Many of the walks in Sligo have been developed in cooperation with local farmers. This partnership is a fundamental part of promoting an activity which is both good for our health as well as its broader promotional value to the county. But there is a duty of care on all walkers to respect the rules when using these walks, and, unfortunately, on occasion, these are ignored when it comes to the control of dogs.
So what are the guidelines and what should dog owners do to avoid the potential risk to ewes, lambs and other livestock?
Firstly, keep your dog on a lead at all times. This is good practice anyway, because other walkers as well as animals can be wary of dogs. Sheep and lambs are particularly vulnerable to dog activity. Even a dog acting in a friendly way can be a very stressful experience for ewes that are in lamb. Being chased by a dog can be a terrifying experience for sheep, even to the point where they can lose lambs if they are pregnant. By keeping your dog on a lead you avoid any chance that your dog might take off to ‘play’ with the sheep, without being aware the damage they could cause.
If you live close to a place where sheep graze, keep your dog locked away at night. Every week hundreds of ewes and lambs are killed by marauding dogs around the country. You want to be sure you know where your dog is when these stories appear in your community, and remember that a farmer has the right to shoot a dog considered to be a threat to livestock and that the owner may be liable for the damage caused.
So if we keep our dogs under control, are there restrictions to where we can walk in Sligo? The answer is yes. There are several walks in Sligo that have been developed in partnership with local farmers and landowners and which cross open farmland. These are walks that you are not allowed to bring dogs on, even if they are on a lead. These include the off-road sections of the following walks: Keash Hill Trail, Lough Easkey Loop, The Miners’ Way and Historical Trail, The Sligo Way.
Anyone familiar with walking in Sligo will know that these walks are among the most popular in the county, and some of them are among the longest. This doesn’t mean that you can’t walk these trails with dogs, it just means that there are sections of these walks where dogs are not allowed. Please check out the links to each of these walks on the SligoWalks.ie website for more information on what sections of walks this rule applies to.
In other news, Sligo Walks social media followers will have seen a number of photos we posted last week relating to damage caused by people on dirt bikes to part of the Sligo Way in Union Wood. As a result of their actions and the damage their motorbikes caused, part of this walk had to be closed to the public due to safety issues. These actions can only be described as the wanton abuse of public walkways, and it goes without saying that motorbike activities are strictly prohibited along the walks. Currently Coillte and Sligo County Council are working on the repair and maintenance of this walk, and of a section of the Lough Easkey Loop, both of which will remain closed while these works take place. Follow our social media channels for updates on when they will reopen.