Who are Wild Dogs?
The term ‘wild dog’ is used by authorities to refer to all wild-living dogs in Australia. This includes dingoes, ‘feral’ domestic dogs and dingo-dog hybrids.
Dingoes (Canis lupus dingo) are the top land predator on mainland Australia, where they have been part of the wildlife for some 5,000 years. Genetic studies show the presence of at least two dingo lineages or populations: one is restricted to southeast Australia, and the other is widespread across central, northern, and Western Australia. These population differences are important to conservation and may reflect multiple immigrations of the dingo across the now flooded land bridge between Papua New Guinea and Australia.
Feral domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) were once, or are descended from, pet, working or hunting dogs whose human owners have failed to keep securely at home or deliberately abandoned. Once in the wild, feral domestic dogs and dingoes may breed together, creating dingo-dog hybrids.
Farmers across Australia condemn wild dogs for preying on livestock, which damages their businesses and profits. Since wild dogs are implicated as livestock predators, they are labelled ‘pests’ and are heavily persecuted through cruel, lethal control methods.
The primary control methods used are barbaric foot-hold traps, shooting with a firearm and large-scale poisoning regimes. Wild dogs may also be hunted with a bow and arrow throughout much of Australia, though this is specifically for sport or recreational purposes and not considered pest control.
Importantly, dingoes are not afforded the same legal protections as many other native animals*. For example, wild dogs (including dingoes) in NSW are declared ‘noxious animals’ under the Local Land Services Act 2013. This means they cannot be protected under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. As a result, indiscriminate pest control programs like 1080 poison baiting may be applied regardless of whether an area is home to dingoes, feral domestic dogs, hybrids or all three.
Considering the sheer size of the Australian wilderness and the millions of points at which hunters may kill, there is no conceivable way that authorities can regulate hunting activity to ensure targeted animals are ‘dispatched’ quickly. Furthermore, so-called pest and game animals are often exempt from the cruelty laws that protect our companion animals.
The hunting and poisoning of wild dogs is shamelessly supported by governments through fully staffed council pest control services, maintenance of extensive barrier or exclusion fencing that fracture natural habitats and also by funding research into lethal control methods. In addition, some state governments and local councils pay bounty rewards of between $25 to $120 to hunters who present wild dog skins and scalps at designated collection points.
* Pure dingoes are protected in the Northern Territory, and some parts of Victoria. In South Australia, they are declared pests south of the Dingo Fence and are neither specifically protected nor declared pests north of this Fence.