Pig dogging is when a hunter uses dogs to help catch a wild pig. The dogs find and chase the pig until they are exhausted or cornered. They then hold the pig, so that the hunter can either shoot or stab them – known as ‘sticking’.
This form of hunting poses significant welfare risks for both the pigs and the dogs involved. This article focuses on the welfare issues for the dogs, if you would like to learn about the welfare issues for the pigs, click here.
Regulations for hunting with dogs changes between the states and territories. In NSW, it is legal for dogs to ‘locate, hold, and bite’ the pigs, whilst in Victoria, dogs can use used to ‘point or flush’ pigs but not to ‘attack or hold pigs’. The pigs suffer more when holding is allowed, and it also increases the chances of an injury for the dogs. In NSW, a solo hunter can use up to three dogs, while a group of hunters can have five. [1 PDF]
There are a range of health and welfare risks for pig dogs. These range from injuries, punishment based training techniques, and poor quality of life, to over-breeding, early retirement, and culling or dumping. [1 PDF]
Pig dogs are most commonly medium-large mixed-breeds, such as Bull Arabs, Bull Terriers, and Wolfhounds. In some jurisdictions they have been declared “dangerous” due to their, subjecting them to housing restrictions . The dogs are selected based on their hunting ability. boldness, intelligence and strength. It is estimated that around 780,000 pig-dogs are born annually in Australia [1 PDF]. It is logical to make the assumption that some of the dogs bred are a surplus for the “replacements”, creating an unknown amount of “wastage”. Dogs who do not have the correct behaviour traits, or lack aggression, may be culled if they do not find homes [1 PDF].
Training and housing
A dog’s behaviour is heavily influenced by genetics and environmental factors. There is limited research on how pig-dogs are kept, however, recommendations are typically single kennels. Although recommendations for kennel requirements exists, it is unlikely that these laws are enforced. Many are also tethered, which exposes the dogs to the elements and provides no comfort. Both cases can lead to aggression caused by frustration. Some hunting dogs are reported as being ‘stoic’, whilst others have been known to attack humans and other animals. Research shows that isolating a puppy can increase their aggression.
In addition to this, some hunters use punishment and fear to curb behaviour, for example, electric shock collars. This can increase the dogs aggression and anxiety [1 PDF].
Hunting dogs are at risk of “heat exhaustion, poisoning. vehicular trauma, snake bite, accidental shooting, and dehydration while hunting” [1 PDF]. In Australia, dogs are required to wear a protective neck collar. This provides no protection to their vulnerable chests and abdomen. Many dogs suffer from horrific puncture wounds, caused by the large tusks. Veterinarians often report injuries sustained by the dogs. As hunts take place in rural areas, dogs are likely to suffer without treatment for long periods of time. As a result, some hunters bring “staple guns” to patch up the dogs. Dogs can die from these wounds.
Many hunters have started using GPS collars and strobe lights to reduce the chance of a losing a dog. In saying this, some dogs still get lost because of an injury or chasing the wrong animal. An injured or lost dog is susceptible to dehydration, starvation, or becoming a stray.
Retirement and death
There is little research surrounding the “retirement” age of pig-dogs. A New Zealand study found the average age of pig-dogs to be three years. Older dogs are either re-homed, kept as breeders, or killed. Pig-dogs may have difficulty finding new homes, and will most likely struggle with house-training and unfamiliar environments. They likely face problems similar to ex-racing greyhounds due to their chasing-prey nature.
In Australia, it is legal to kill a “working” dog when they are no longer needed or are “failing” at their “job”. A study found that 21% were killed upon “retirement”. They can be killed by a veterinarian or a gunshot. This number could be much higher, as people do not have to report their dogs death. In addition to this, there is no little chance of catching someone who kills their dogs via other methods.
Animal Liberation’s long battle
In 2010, Lynda Stoner went undercover to investigate pig-dogging. She attended the Game Council’s two-day pig dogging workshop. Whilst she was there, she witnessed pig doggers laughing at the prospect of “dog whispering” to train dogs as opposed to more brutal methods. During the workshop, hunters were told they should ‘wrap their dogs in Gladwrap and staples wounds closed’ if they get gored. Lynda also witnessed the dogs, who were used during the workshop, being kept in cages on the back of a ute for the duration of the day. On the trip to the actual pig hunt, hunters were mimicking a gun and “shooting” at horses, cows, all animals.
Pig dogging forums, such as Ozzie Doggers, have some horrific injuries to pig dogs after hunts. The hunters even stitch them up themselves up, out of necessity.
What you can do
Help Animal Liberation’s fight for a kinder world, by:
- Supporting a ban on pig dogging;
- Sharing information about pig dogging with your friends and family;
- Writing to your local MP to support a ban on pig dogging.
- Demand the establishment of an Independent Office of Animal Welfare.
You can also learn more about pig dogging here.