THE state government’s “city-centric” approach is leaving livestock welfare and farmers’ livelihoods under threat, says Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull.
Last December, the use of larger dog control traps was banned because of “animal welfare concerns”.
The traps, which are used to catch wild dogs that maim, disembowel and kill farm stock, have divided farmers and animal welfare advocates.
Native animals can become snared instead, most often wallabies and wombats, and can die slow and painful deaths.
But the ban has angered Newry farmer and wild dog campaigner Barry Tayler, who said the larger traps were a better design for capturing wild dogs, and their ban would restrict efforts to control the dogs.
“It could take weeks to catch a wild dog in the smaller traps, because they have to step right into it, so that means less dogs will be controlled,” he said.
“That means more vicious wild dogs out there to kill and maim livestock.
“They are out there, and the numbers are increasing.”
Mr Tayler, who farms in Newry and also near alpine areas, said he knew of about 30 wild dogs that had been shot or captured locally this year alone.
Mr Bull said that when asked about it in parliament last week, Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford appeared to have no idea the ban, in place since December 30, had been implemented.
“Regular wild dog attacks on livestock have a devastating financial and emotional toll on landholders in north-east Victoria and Gippsland,” Mr Bull said.
“But the Andrews Labor government has progressively dismantled successful control measures to appease Greens voters in Melbourne.
“When it was elected, Labor sacked the wellqualified Wild Dog Advisory Committee and axed the wild dog bounty, before giving in to calls to reinstate the bounty more than 12 months later.”
The state Opposition wants to give doggers a greater arsenal in the fight to control wild dogs by reintroducing Lane’s leg-hold trap, aerial and community baiting and a bounty on wild dogs for the public.
Mr Bull said that despite the Andrews Labor government banning the use of the larger traps used by wild dog controllers on December 30, Ms Pulford told the Upper House last week there had been “no changes” to the arrangements, before saying she would need to seek further advice from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
“The minister doesn’t even know what rules her own government has enforced upon her departmental staff,” Mr Bull said.
“I have had a number of farmers contact my office to relay their concerns about the government’s ban on these larger traps, so for the minister to appear to have no idea the ban was even in place, is just not good enough.
“Wild dogs continue to attack lambs, calves and native fauna right across east Gippsland, and this is having a devastating financial impact on landholders and taking an emotional toll.”
Shadow Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said farmers were beyond frustrated at the government’s lack of interest and leadership on wild dog control.
“Labor’s more interested in protecting itself against losing city votes to the Greens than it is the welfare of livestock and our landholders,” he said.
In 2008, the Brumby Labor government introduced animal welfare regulations that placed a limit of 13 to 15.5cm on the jaw spread of traps, because of the potential death of wildlife.
However, an exemption from the regulations for dog hunters has now ended.
Before December last year, the regulations permitted the use of large leg hold traps with a jaw spread of between 15.5 and 21 centimetres for trapping wild dogs.
All serrated tooth animals traps are illegal in Victoria.
Ms Pulford was contacted for comment.