Bounty call to put bite on dogs

30 Nov, 2016 10:07 AM
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PGA president Tony Seabrook.
They have become quick to learn how to pull down cattle and soon there could be more human attacks.
PGA president Tony Seabrook.

THE WA Wild Dog Action Plan for 2016-21 does not do enough to control predatory wild dogs and other agricultural pests in regional areas.

That's the view of Rick Mazza, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MLC for the Agricultural Region, and other key stakeholders of the plan released last month.

The $19.94 million plan includes $12.8m for the installation, repair and replacement of fencing, but it does not consider a bounty on dogs.

This is something Mr Mazza questioned in State Parliament last month.

Given a 2014 bounty trial captured 505 dogs in a short time, he thought it would have been a logical inclusion.

"The Victorian government increased its bounty for wild dogs from $100 to $120, because bounties are incentive driven, they are the ideal complement to baiting, trapping and fencing," Mr Mazza said.

"They have the ability to put all the stakeholders together so there's cohesion between pastoralists, government, biosecurity groups and recreational hunters."

Mr Mazza said the State Government had confirmed the trial resulted in more wild dogs being controlled over the 12-month period than would normally occur without a bounty.

"Under the trial only the pastoralist of the station could collect the bounty, so it was controlled," he said.

"The pastoralist had control of who was shooting on their property, it was not willy-nilly.

"The bottom line is that Victoria has reintroduced the bounty and raised it, so why haven't we implemented it?

"Even with the fences the dogs inside need to be dealt with, otherwise the dogs will continue to breed."

Agriculture and Food Minister Mark Lewis said funding for the plan would implement key recommendations.

He said the plan aimed to reduce the economic and social burden of wild dogs.

"The statewide strategy was put together by industry and there was no provision in there for bounties," Mr Lewis said.

"I assume they considered that as part of the discussions they had, but it's not in the strategy and it's not part of the funding model."

When asked at the launch of the plan if a bounty system should be considered Mr Lewis said WA needed to take baby steps.

"We need to get the cells going and then there will be a clean up process within that," Mr Lewis said.

"There is considerable funding in the strategy for doggers and other means as well.

"If there is a need for that (a bounty), we have the pilot strategy already done, so we know what can be done and what needs to be considered later, we will consider it."

Mr Lewis said a key step was the formation of the WA Wild Dog Alliance to provide industry-based leadership to implement the plan.

"This includes boosting support for existing biosecurity groups which have formed to control wild dogs and other pests," he said.

Mr Mazza had hoped the government would revaluate the strategy to include more on-ground eradication programs.

The WA action plan was developed by the Wild Dog Action Group.

Group committee member and pastoralist Ashley Dowden criticised the "industry-led plan" claim by government.

He said while some of industry was on the committee, it was a minority.

"It was never an industry-led document," he said.

"As much as the government wants to push that, it was not an industry-led document."

Mr Dowden said there were more government bureaucrats on the committee than industry representatives.

"Because there were three or four industry people on the committee of 12, it has become industry-led which wasn't the case."

Mr Dowden believed the industry voices were not taken on board when developing the plan.

"Time and time again, things that we put up were knocked back," he said.

"Really what industry wanted wasn't represented in the plan."

He said the plan was a blow for all of the industry.

"I am very disappointed with the State's plan," Mr Dowden said.

"I sat on the committee and I fought it all the way and didn't get the outcomes I wanted.

"In all honesty there isn't enough on-ground work."

Mr Dowden also predicted there would be an explosion in dog numbers if more wasn't done.

"In three years time when the money runs out, when those fences are built, how are we supposed to clean the dogs out?" he said.

"There should be doggers, baiting and bounties to try reduce the dog numbers for when the Esperance and State barrier fences are done.

"The fences will be worth nothing if we haven't also controlled the numbers."

Regional Development Minister Terry Redman agreed wild dog numbers were on the rise.

"There are huge dog numbers out there," Mr Redman said.

"The first agenda was to deal with the State Barrier fence, that stops the dogs flowing into the agricultural area and that was part of those early investments, including doggers.

"The later calls were for cell fencing on the pastoral side of things.

"There is a lot of discussion about the business model that needs to be applied to that.

"On the back of some very good work that's what we can start investing in and supporting now."

Mr Redman said a Statewide co-ordinated approach was needed.

"One person can do all the right things in one spot and if they don't have supportive neighbours doing the right thing, it can all come undone easily," he said.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook believed there was very little in the State plan that offered a blanket approach.

While it was a good start, he said the plan should be about eradicating the dogs.

"We need an eradication program not a process," Mr Seabrook said.

"We needed more things in there for on-the-ground support.

"The dog issue is far bigger than we thought and this will affect the whole industry, not just small stock.

"They have become quick to learn how to pull down cattle and soon there could be more human attacks.

"It is a broad issue, this isn't just a agricultural issue, this is a social issue."

Mr Seabrook said while fencing was necessary he urged the government to reconsider on the ground support.

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