Wild Dog & Pest Control

Sheep producer under dog attack told to put mauled ewes on ice

Terry Sim, April 8, 2024

A Merino ewe that died in a dog attack in north-west Victoria.

A NORTH-WEST Victorian farmer whose sheep have been killed by wild dogs or dingoes has been unable to obtain a control permit and told to store mauled ewes in his freezer for DNA testing, Sheep Central has been told.

Lawloit mixed farmer Alan Bennett said wild dogs or dingoes killed 13 ewes in a single incident, but up to 30 ewes could have died in five attacks in the past three weeks on his property adjacent to the Big Desert Wilderness Park.

“For every one they kill, they bite another 10 and most of those will die.”

He applied for a permit to control wildlife two weeks ago, but an automatic online reply said it could take six weeks to process his application and he also sent an email to the state’s conservation’s regulator. He was visited by Department of Energy, Environment, Climate Action officers on Good Friday to gather information, is due for another visit and has been told to store mauled sheep in a cool room for DNA swabbing to determine what killed it.

“So nobody basically believes me about what’s going on.

“I’m supposed to — to prove it to these guys — get a dead sheep that’s been eaten alive and put it in a cool room so they can come and do DNA swabs on it, what’s the cost of that?”

The situation in the aftermath of the Victorian Government’s removal of a dingo unprotection order in north-west Victoria on 13 March, has raised the possibility that the authorities could be contributing to contraventions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Victoria’s Wildlife Act (1975) Order In Council effectively ‘unprotected’ the dingo on private land, and on public land within 3km of the private land boundaries to public lands, enabling baiting and trapping. However, on 14 March, the Victorian Government, removed the dingo unprotection order in north-west Victoria and has said on 1 October 2024 it will do the same in eastern Victoria. The government said it is helping protect a vulnerable population of dingoes in Victoria’s north-west “while ensuring farmers are able to protect their livestock.”

In Victoria, wild dog/dingo management is the responsibility of Department of Energy, Environment, Climate Action whose ministers include Minister for Environment Steve Dimopoulos and Minister for Agriculture Ros Spence.

Mr Bennett said the changes have thrown authorities into “absolute chaos” and he is starting to realise trying to a permit is an exercise in futility. He said the current permit process would make wild dog control “impossible”.

“So at the moment we are trying to organize eight kilometres of exclusion fencing, but it’s Swiss cheese; we’ve got 38 kilometres of boundary on our block with roads through it.

“We would have to put up 38 kilometres of fence to protect our flock.”

Without exclusion fencing, lamb markings could reach pre-dog control rates of 30 percent, he said.

Mr Bennett said the Big Desert currently has no surface water and the dogs are coming out to access water on clay holes dug for livestock on private land.

He asked Victoria’s agriculture and environment ministers to consider the cost to landholders of the unprotection decision “that supposedly benefits the whole community,” but which he believes will ultimately risk the genetic purity of the wild dog population with their unrestricted movement into private land.

“They’ve actually wrecked the system that has kept the dog going the way they are now.

“It’s a lose-lose; we lose and the dogs lose will lose by getting out everywhere, their genetic purity will decrease and you will get an unsustainable population in there, and their numbers will crash and burn.”

Producers left ‘high and dry’

Victorian Farmers Federation Livestock Group vice-president and Tallangatta farmer Peter Star said the freezing of mauled sheep carcases or collecting DNA is a non-event; “that’s the department’s job.”

Mr Star said the ending of the unprotection order meant baiting could not be done in a 3km band around public land.

“Dogs that are coming into your property are a protected species.”

He said “the burning question” is whether farmers will be allowed to protect their flock against marauding wild dogs or dingoes and potentially be in breach of current legislation, even though a 1080 fox bait could kill a dingo. On 14 March, the Victorian Government confirmed that the dingo (Canis lupus dingo) is listed as a threatened species under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and as a result is protected (threatened wildlife) under the Wildlife Act 1975.

Mr Star said livestock producers have been “left high and dry” by the unprotection order change after having an effective wild dog control program in place for about 30 years, that often involved destroying single rogue dogs.

“They (livestock producers) have had a lot of good benefit and the environment department has just pulled the rug completely out from under their feet.

“This is the biggest worry we’ve got here in the north-east and Gippsland — that they will do the same thing to us.”

Mr Star said the unprotection order was ended without consulting producers, despite the Victorian Government previously stating it would consult with stakeholders.

Is DEECA’s stance leading to POCTA contraventions?

National Wild Dog Management co-ordinator Greg Mifsud said not issuing a control permit, while asking farmers to store mauled sheep for DNA testing is unacceptable.

“It highlights a lack of consultation with stakeholders and the knee-jerk reaction of this (unprotection order) decision and that there were no processes and protocols in place to manage these attacks and protect producers, knowing full well that wild dog impacts are ongoing in that part of the world, although sporadic, for the past 30-odd years,” he said.

He said the position that the north-west sheep producer has been put in also shows that the unprotection order decision lacked consultation, and did not meet the government’s obligation to manage the impact on stakeholders.

“Producers don’t have two weeks up their sleeve for the department to make up their mind about how this issue is going to be managed in the future.”

He said the lack of wild dog management around the edge of national parks meant dog attacks will increase in frequency and severity, because there is no management of dog numbers on the edge of public land.

“Producers can’t afford to wait, under legislation it’s there responsibility to take immediate steps to limit the negative welfare outcomes on their livestock.

“The POCTA legislation and animal welfare standards say that, so in actual fact the department – DEECA — is in contravention of the government’s own animal welfare act by taking two weeks to respond (to Mr Bennett’s application for a control permit),” Mr Mifsud said.

“DEECA is prolonging the negative animal welfare outcomes on these livestock and putting this guy in contravention of the animal welfare act.”

Concerns that north-east Victoria and Gippsland will be next

VFF Livestock Council president Scott Young said need farmers need the the confidence that they can do something about wild dog or dingo attacks.

“One farmer has lost more than six animals in the last couple of weeks and is just getting the runaround by the department,” Mr Young said.

“We need clarification at what does farmers do when they are getting dog attacks.

“This (unprotection) decision has been made by government and put on farmers who haven’t been given an option on what to do when these issues arise,” he said.

“It is really concerning for people who are running legitimate livestock operations and they’re not getting support from the government after it has made a decision that is jeopardizing their livelihoods.

“It is totally impractical for farmers to be expected to put sheep into cool rooms and try to preserves them .. sometimes it could be a number of days before they’re found,” he said.

“Why the impost on farmers?

“With the technology we’ve got now that we can take video footage of evidence should be sufficient.”

North-west sheep producer Kevin Crook who farms within 10 kilometres of the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park said if control of the dingoes in the area stopped, they would reach his property. He said the storage of mauled sheep for DNA testing is “just not on.”

Sheep Central sought comment from Victoria’s Minister for Environment Steve Dimopoulos and Minister for Agriculture Ros Spence.


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  1. Glenn Nix, April 8, 2024

    It has to be said; but how do complete wankers get so much power? Who has a cool room to put 30 sheep in? The official starting point is farmers are liars and can’t be trusted. How many dead sheep before farmers are believed?

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