Shot pets highlight new rural problem

TINY TERROR: Two shih tzus, like this pair, were shot dead for worrying sheep.
TINY TERROR: Two shih tzus, like this pair, were shot dead for worrying sheep.

Two small, fluffy lapdogs shot at point-blank range for worrying sheep have highlighted problems caused by city dwellers moving to semi-rural lifestyle blocks.

The two tiny shih tzus were shot dead by a Rodney farmer for allegedly chasing sheep on his property.

The Auckland Council was alerted to the incident on August 3, said manager of animal management Tracey Moore. The council helped return the dead dogs to their owner.

The owner, who did not want to be named, said she was concerned about the growing subdivision of lifestyle blocks and the fact that this could happen more frequently in the future.

Federated Farmers shared the dog owner's concerns but were worried more about the wellbeing of farmers' livestock than the pet dogs'.

Meat and fibre chair Rick Powdrell said as increasing numbers of urban people moved to rural areas, more dogs could end up roaming near livestock. "Particularly at this time of the year with lambing ewes . . . dogs disturbing lambing ewes can lead to mis-mothered lambs. Even a little dog, if it decides to attack a young lamb, is big enough to damage or kill it. From a farmer's perspective you have got to understand that he is protecting his animals; for him it's an issue of animal welfare."

A farmer living near Te Puke recently had to put down 20 sheep after a dog attack, Powdrell said. Each animal was worth around $200.

Moore said dogs had to be under control of the owner at all times whether living near livestock or not. She said dog owners were responsible for making sure their dogs didn't injure, endanger or cause distress to any person, stock, poultry or domestic animal, or protected wildlife.

"Auckland Council has dealt with up to 20 reports of dogs attacking stock in the past year, including one other incident of a dog being shot."

Farmers were legally within their rights to shoot an animal that had wandered onto their land, SPCA Auckland executive director Bob Kerridge said.

"There is a proviso that the shot must be clean and the death must be instant. Generally speaking, we find in most cases when this sort of situation does occur, usually the animals are shot fairly accurately and pain and suffering doesn't result."

Kerridge said as people moved away from urban areas they sometimes thought their dog could run free. "This should be a warning sign to people who have moved out of the city, the rules of the country apply - any dog or any animal can worry stock and that can be seen or viewed as a concern to the farmer."

In this case, the dogs' owner and her family will be writing to their MP for a review of the Dog Control Act, as they felt it was outdated.

Rural Women land use spokesperson Shirley Read agreed that with the growing number of lifestyle blocks there would be more domestic dogs in rural areas.

"On dairy or cattle farms, if dogs run free they can harass cattle, even if they are small dogs wanting to play, and drive them through fences. Similarly, horses can be spooked and run into fences by dogs. We have stories of uncontrolled dogs worrying cows during calving and vets having to be called."

Sunday Star Times