Dingoes in the city
In a country where dingoes are synonymous with the words "got my baby", Desiree Hemberger has a lot of explaining to do.
The owner of three purebred dingoes in Newtown - urbane, crowded and in the midst of a baby boom - she insists they are not savages but shy, even huggable, companions.
"Every time I take them for a walk, I will always bump into someone who will ask, 'they aren't dingoes, are they?'" Ms Hemberger said.
"It's part of owning them. You get to talk to a lot of people and explain they can make really good pets.
"They are really affectionate, always wanting to sit on your lap, sleep near you and just stay close."
Despite their fierce reputations, the number of dingoes kept in NSW backyards has risen steadily since 1999 when they became legal as pets.
More than 580 purebred and 500 cross-breeds were registered last year.
NSW is one of only three states where dingo ownership is allowed in urban areas.
Many early critics of the practice have softened their stance. They include Nationals MP Andrew Stoner, who in 2005 likened the practice to "keeping a loaded gun in the home".
He said dingoes should be declared dangerous dogs, adding that even cross-breeds retained "their predatory instincts".
Now in power, the Coalition seems in no hurry to ban dingoes as pets. A taskforce is advising the government on companion animals, and the issue of dingoes would be considered "in due course", a spokesman for Local Government Minister Don Page said.
But the president of the Australian Native Dog Conservation Society, Lucille Ellem, said the animals needed to roam and should "not be a pet sitting on someone's lounge".
The society has a dingo sanctuary at Bargo, which she said received two calls a week from owners who said their dingoes were "getting out of control, climbing fences and killing the local cats and they want us to take them in".
Anti-dingo sentiment was high in 2005 when a family cross-breed killed a two-year-old girl at Nullica on the south coast.
But a Department of Local Government spokeswoman said reports of dingo attacks were "relatively low" compared with other breeds.
The RSPCA NSW, which once deemed dingoes "too big a risk" to keep as pets, now rehouses them.
This year the government published guidelines for dingo owners.
It pointed out that while dingoes and hybrids had been successfully kept as pets, most people who bought the animals did "not fully appreciate [their] 'hard-wired' behaviours".
The guidelines warned of destructive, aggressive and escape behaviour, and a limited ability to be trained or rehoused.
Ms Hemberger agreed dingoes were headstrong but also "loving, generous and beautiful companions", even around children.
"A girlfriend of mine has a little baby that we look after from time to time. One dingo in particular loves to come up and see him … they are not a threat to anyone."
Sydney Morning Herald