Trapping Wildlife

Australia’s Shame

Wild dogs are just domestic dogs that been lost or purposely released into the bush.

In Victoria, the Government pays for 720 (wild dog) traps to be set each day. The type the government “doggers” use, a leg-hold trap, is banned in 80 countries, including Britain, because they are considered inhumane. When a dog wanders into the trap, a piece of padded steel clamps down on a paw or a leg. One in three times, a native animal is snared instead, most often wallabies and wombats.

The trapped animals can stay like that, writhing and yelping in pain, for three days before a dogger arrives to shoot them, if they are not already dead.

The Victorian Government, under pressure from rural communities to “do something” about the thousands of roaming wild dogs, has chosen a different path to every other state. A national push to reduce the dogs’ suffering is being resisted here. Every other state checks wild dog traps daily or laces them with lethal poison to ensure a quick death. Victoria does not.

Under a new national code being developed, other Australian states and territories are pushing Victoria to agree to daily trap checks. But the Government has resisted, saying it is “impractical or excessively costly” because traps are often set in remote areas (as they are in other states and territories). Victoria’s draft law, therefore, allows the minister to exempt trappers from this requirement. The RSPCA says this is “totally unacceptable”. Chief scientist Bidda Jones says wild dogs suffer the same way pet dogs suffer.

“They are the same animal, with the same intelligence and capacity to suffer,” Dr Jones said. “It is hard to imagine the level of frustration, pain and distress endured by a dog captured in a trap for days on end. It is not the dog’s fault that they are treated as pests.”

While the RSPCA does not endorse the traps, it does believe that a caught animal’s suffering is so great it would be better if the trap is treated with poison so the animal dies quickly. One of Australia’s leading experts on pest animal control, the Queensland Government’s Dr Lee Allen, said a dog should not be left in a trap for more than a day. “If you are not checking them daily, the trap has to be poisoned (so the animal is killed quickly).”

He said he would expect the RSPCA to prosecute a person in Queensland if they set a trap and did not check it every day. But the Victorian Government refuses to set traps laced with strychnine because it considers poison inhumane. The Department of Primary Industry, which refused to allow its staff to be interviewed for this article, said in an email that it intends to use lethal traps, possibly with a more humane poison, but it has not done so.

Victorian scientist Clive Marks, who has worked for the department, developed traps in 1990 that send signals to the “dogger” when the trap was triggered. In 2006, he created a device that delivers poison to trapped dogs. The department has not implemented either innovation. Probably the most well-recognised way to stop wild dog attacks is to build electric fences to separate the hunter from the hunted. But, of course, that’s expensive.

Then again, Victoria’s wild dog trapping program costs taxpayers $1.6 million annually. At $1600 for every dog caught, that’s pretty pricey too.
- Melissa Fyfe, 7 December 2008 age.com.au (excerpts)