Community help sought in wake of roaming dog attacks
Local farmers and the Hastings District Council are calling on the community to help be their eyes and ears in the face of a spate of vicious dog attacks on stock in the district.
Over the last month there have been 12 reports of stock worrying and 143 sheep killed in different locations, causing much distress to landowners feeling the impact both financially and emotionally.
About nine farmers met with Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst today to discuss the current situation and how to address it.
Farmer spokesperson Denise Davis, who had five properties targeted by roaming dogs, said that while there were dog attacks on stock last year, it was nowhere near the scale seen this month, resulting in a significant loss of revenue.
“It’s not just from the loss of the animals, it’s also employing someone to dispose of the carcases, the vet bills for the injured sheep and then there the stress affecting the rest of the flock, and their productivity.
“We take great pride in finishing our stock well and it’s devastating – all of us are up throughout the night monitoring the stock – we need these dog owners to be responsible, to tie their dogs up at night and know where they are during the day, and they need to be accountable.”
On behalf of the farmers she called for the current legislation to be reviewed to better protect livestock and make irresponsible owners more liable.
“In the meantime we know moonlit nights are a problem and are preparing for the next full moon in July – any help the community can give us by reporting wandering dogs would be appreciated.”
Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the council was committed to helping the community find a solution, in an area where there was a lot of stock and a mix or rural and urban properties.
“We’ve seen some horrific cases of dog attacks and we are all coming together to say these dogs need to be found and the owners prosecuted.
“I will be working with our local MP to say we need to look at the legislation – it’s old and needs to be updated – and we are going to work hard to ensure all the district’s dogs are microchipped and that dog owners are held accountable for the damage that’s caused.”
Of the attacks to date, five dogs had been impounded at the council’s animal control centre, three summary prosecutions were pending, and two dogs had been returned to their owners who were fined, said regulatory solutions manager John Payne.
If prosecutions were successful, dog owners were required to pay fines and reparation for damage caused – and if the owners did not surrender the dogs to be put down, a judge could order that to happen.
In terms of prevention, and in preparation for the next full moon, he said the council was taking a number of steps.
“We have increased both night and day patrols, and have widened the area where these patrols are happening.
“Unfortunately these dogs are a product of their environment – their owners are not looking after them properly.”
In the Hastings district there were 13,500 registered dogs, but it was usually the ones the council did not know about that caused most of the issues, he added.
Mr Payne acknowledged the hard work and progress being made by animal control staff investigating the recent attacks.
“Our team has been making an extreme effort to locate the offending dogs – it’s a credit to them that that they have captured as many as they have.
“I also want to thank members of the public who have been very co-operative in helping us.”
Mr Payne also had some words of advice:
You are mistaken if you think your pet dog wouldn’t kill, regardless of what breed it is, how well it is fed or how well it has been socialised with livestock or trained. You cannot breed or train the killing instincts out of the species.
The only way to eliminate stock worrying is to keep your dog under proper control. Just because your dog is sitting on the porch in the morning doesn’t mean it has been there all night.
In areas where there is a mix of rural and urban, dog attacks on livestock are not uncommon.
Stock worrying often occurs between 3am – 7am, spring and autumn. The risk of attack is higher directly after the initial attack and for up to five weeks.
Stock owners need to be aware about when the risk of predation on livestock is greater, lambing, full moon, June and how they may reduce the attraction.
• Find out from local farmers/Animal Control when attacks are more prevalent in the area. These seasons can be different in different districts
• Electrify fences containing stock, especially if you are close to an urban area. A dog that gets a zap from an electric fence is unlikely to return
• Avoid home kills during the attack season
• House stock closer to home for monitoring at high-risk times, especially when new born lambs come
• Don’t leave stock daggy during the attack season
• Be extra vigilant on a full moon
• Ensure not to attract predators by leaving dead stock unburied, skins out to dry etc
• Consider purchasing and setting a dog trap
• Purchase a firearm. A person may, for the purposes of stopping an attack destroy a dog if they witness the dog attacking stock
• Take prevention measures against things like fly strike, foot rot, as these smells can attract dogs
• Be extra vigilant when grazing areas such as vineyards and orchards that have previously been open and used by dogs.