A farmer who shot at least three hunting dogs has voiced sorrow over the incident, but said that it “had to be done”.
Alan Sloane described a dramatic-sounding five-minute encounter with the animals, and was emphatic that action had been unavoidable to protect his livelihood.
Nevertheless, he said that he has lost a number of lambs as a result of the incident.
The PSNI said it had handed the matter over to the local authority (Newry, Mourne and Down District Council), which is investigating.
Mr Sloane, 50 and from outside Rathfriland, Co Down, said that a hunt on February 2 had been passing about half-a-mile from his property and that a number of dogs had appeared unaccompanied on his premises at about 3pm.
He told the News Letter that he had gone to investigate after hearing growling in the farm yard, taking his shotgun with him.
“They had 15 or 16 of the sheep in a corner on the right hand side,” he said.
“And there was a black dog [which] came running across the field next to sheep, and I just shot him dead.”
He said the dog had been in “attack mode”, and was headed straight for his animals.
He then shot at two dogs which had jumped over a hedge, making them flee.
He then saw perhaps six or seven dogs trying to get into a field where he had a ram and about six Shetland ponies, half of which were pregnant.
He fired three shots at the dogs from a distance of about 180ft, but “it didn’t stop them”.
His son arrived on a quad bike to aid him, and Mr Sloane drove around and into the field where the ponies were.
“There was two of the dogs hunting the Shetland ponies up along the back of the hedge,” he said.
“I cut the two dogs off, and shot the two dogs dead.”
The incident was over within five minutes, he said.
He said he had given no permission to any hunt to use his property.
Mr Sloane said he was told by a huntsman that he should have No Hunting signs up.
“I said: ‘But youse are on the main road – and the dogs are in my field. The dogs can’t read signs’.”
He said that as a result of the incident he lost four lambs via miscarriages, while other ewes began giving birth prematurely. He fears he may have more dead animals on his hands in the weeks ahead.
Asked his reaction to the whole incident he said: “Total devastation.”
He described the animals he killed as “three poor, innocent dogs”.
“It had to be done,” he said. “It was either my livelihood, or the dogs. And it wasn’t going to be my livelihood.”
He could face a cost of a couple of thousand pounds as it stands, he said, adding: “If I had’ve walked away and done nothing, it could’ve cost £15,000.”
COUNTRYSIDE ALLIANCE CONDUCTING REPORT
The Irish branch of the Countryside Alliance said the dogs belonged to a hunting group from north Down, which is one of its members.
It said the Northern Ireland Masters of Hounds Association is currently compiling a report on the incident, and it is hoped this will be finished next week.
Lyall Plant, CEO of the Alliance, thinks other dogs may have been hit in the incident and that some remain missing.
He said that the dogs killed had been hunting foxes, but Mr Sloane (who told the News Letter he has had to shoot dogs in similar circumstances before) said they had been hunting deer.
Mr Plant said they were working to establish the facts and he was reluctant to address the issue fully before the report is published.
“This is regrettable situation for the farmer and also for the hounds,” he said.
He added that the issue was not purely “black and white”.